More than 50,000 children in Florida have lost their health insurance coverage since 2016, according to the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. (rawpixel/Adobe Stock)

By Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service – FL

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After almost a decade of steady improvement, the number of children without health insurance in Florida and the nation is on the rise again, according to a new report.

The study, released today by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, found that nationally, the rate of uninsured children increased from 4.7% to 5.2% between 2016 and 2018. In Florida, the rate also increased, from 6.6% to 7.6%.

Anne Swerlick, a health policy analyst for the Florida Policy Institute, said Florida is among the states with the highest increases.

“Over the last couple years, over 50,000 kids have lost coverage here in Florida,” she said. “We had been making terrific progress in getting kids covered over the last decade, but we’re backsliding now. That’s very troubling.”

The report cited multiple causes for the downturn, including efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, delays in funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and inadequate oversight of state Medicaid programs.

On top of Florida not expanding Medicaid, Swerlick said another major factor is pushing immigrant children out of the program: fear and confusion among immigrant families.

“Parents fear that if they get coverage for their kids through Medicaid, that this is going to negatively impact their immigration status,” she said, “so there needs to be a lot more education that that’s not the case.”

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown Center, said the Center has been doing the report for nine years. In 2016, the research showed the lowest number of uninsured children yet, but the trend has reversed since then.

“That has turned around now, and what’s clear from this new data is that the country is going in the wrong direction,” she said. “and we see that it’s very hard for any state to make progress with some of the negative national trends that are happening.”

The report found that 15 states, including Florida, showed statistically significant increases in their numbers of uninsured kids. Alker noted that the number of uninsured children in states that did not expand Medicaid increased at triple the rate of expansion states.

The report is online at ccf.georgetown.edu, and a state-specific data hub is at kidshealthcarereport.ccf.georgetown.edu.

Disclosure: Georgetown University Center for Children & Families contributes to our fund for reporting on Children’s Issues, Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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