Report: CA Loses Ground in Quest to Get Kids Insured

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
California continues to do better than the nation as a whole in children's health coverage. Some 3.6% of California kids were uninsured in 2019, compared to 5.7% nationally. Photo Credit: Unsplash

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — After decades of gains in getting California kids health insurance coverage, the trend has reversed in the first three years of the Trump administration, according to a new report.

Researchers from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families found in 2019, 334,000 California children remained uninsured, the third-highest number in the country. That’s up 11.3% from three years earlier.

Joan Alker, executive director of Georgetown University Center for Children and Families and co-author of the study, noted things went downhill despite a strong economy, before the recession.

“So, we know the situation has gotten worse now; we don’t know by how much, but we know it’s worse,” Alker asserted. “To know now that we went into the pandemic with the number of uninsured children jumping by the largest annual increase we’ve seen in a very long time is extremely concerning.”

Five California counties are in the top 20 for highest numbers of uninsured children, including Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties.

Alker blames the Trump administration’s almost nonstop attacks on the Affordable Care Act, and the “chilling effect” of the clampdown on immigration, which she said has fostered a climate of fear among Latino families.

“Many of those families are afraid to interact with the government; they’re afraid to sign their child up for Medicaid, even though he or she is clearly eligible for public coverage,” Alker explained. “And so, you see a very large jump in the uninsured rate for Latino children.”

Mike Odeh, director of health policy for the nonprofit Children Now, said health insurance is crucial to kids’ success.

“What we do know is that children do better when they have health insurance,” Odeh stated. “They do better in school, and they do better in life. And so, it’s really important that children get enrolled in healthcare, so they can access the healthcare services that they need.”

California has worked to counteract national policy in several ways.

Golden State lawmakers extended Medi-Cal to all children, regardless of immigration status, and increased subsidies to make plans on Covered CA more affordable.

Covered CA also extended its enrollment periods and has funded extra outreach workers to help people sign up.