For Immediate Release: December 11, 2019
Contact: Traci Gleason
Missouri’s Young Children Rapidly Losing Health Coverage
State’s High Uninsured Rate Threatens Young Children’s Healthy Development
Missouri’s youngest children are losing health care coverage at an alarming rate, according to an analysis released today by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. The drastic increase in both the number and rate of Missouri children under age 6 without insurance leaves kids vulnerable at a time of critical brain development and can have lasting consequences.
“The first five years of a child’s life mark a tremendous time of growth and development,” said Shauna Kerperin, Executive Director of the Missouri Parents as Teachers Association. “Not only is the brain rapidly developing during this time, but this is also a period when healthy habits are encouraged and set for life. Families that have access to regular healthcare, including check-ups and screenings, can help prepare their child for lifelong success.”
Between 2016 and 2018, Missouri saw a significant increase in both the number and rate of uninsured young children. In fact, the state’s 1.7 percentage point increase in the rate of uninsured young kids (from 3.6 to 5.3%) was the highest in the country. The number of young, uninsured Missouri children jumped 46%.
“We’re very concerned about the rise in uninsured children in Missouri, particularly in the 0-6 age range,” said Casey Hanson, Director of Outreach and Engagement for Kids Win Missouri. “We can’t seriously discuss early childhood development and kindergarten readiness in our state without also discussing comprehensive health care, including coverage. For kids to learn and grow, they have to be healthy.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 15 well child visits before age 6, and those visits are more concentrated in the first two years. In addition to vaccinations and early preventive care, developmental screenings provided at the visits can detect any delays and allow for early intervention.
While the uninsured rate has been increasing, Missouri has been experiencing issues with its Medicaid program. As a result of information technology changes and new renewal procedures implemented in 2018, about 100,000 children have lost Medicaid and CHIP coverage in Missouri over the past two years – despite many of those children still being eligible for services. What’s more, the 2018 Census data used in the report may not fully reflect the extent of Missouri children’s coverage losses, as many families may have lost coverage after the survey occurred.
“The steep loss of health coverage for young kids underscores the need for Missouri to do all it can to get and keep kids covered,” said Mary Chant, Executive Director of the Missouri Coalition of Children’s Agencies. “We can start by improving access to Medicaid. Implementing 12-month continuous eligibility, boosting outreach, and correcting problems in renewal procedures would go far to make sure kids get the care they need to be healthy and learn.”
At 5.3%, Missouri’s uninsured rate for kids under 6 is significantly higher than the national average. The study also showed that states that refused to expand Medicaid lost coverage had higher and more rapidly increasing rates of uninsured young children.