SALT LAKE CITY — The number of uninsured children in the Beehive State is increasing at an "alarming rate," according to a new report.
The study, conducted for the tenth year by Georgetown University, showed a 39-percent increase in the amount of uninsured children from 2016 to 2019 — making Utah’s rate for that time period the third-largest in the nation.
"We’re leading the pack in the wrong direction,” said Jessie Mandle, a senior policy analyst with Voices for Utah Children, a youth advocacy organization.
In the last data year, 8.3 percent, or 82,000 Utah kids, were uninsured. The national rate for that same year was 5.7 percent.
“It’s terrifying,” Mandle said. “We need to start paying attention to this trend. This is no longer a fluke — this is a three-year trend where we are seeing kids lose insurance at alarming rates.”
According to the study, the swift spike is part of a national trend, impacted largely by a cut to federal programs that left an estimated 726,000 more children without coverage nationwide.
“Much of the coverage gain of the Affordable Care Act for children has now been eliminated,” Voice for Utah Children stated in a media release.
At the time the programs were cut, unemployment rates were relatively low.
Now, the advocacy group believes the situation has likely worsened in 2020 as people lost jobs and subsequently their health insurance. Still, they state there is “no reliable data to estimate the extent of these coverage losses.”
The organization specified the majority of coverage losses have been concentrated in the South and West and have had the largest impact on white and Latino children.
“When kids are insured, it doesn’t only help them in the short term, but it helps them in the long term,” Mandle said. “They have better educational outcomes, higher graduation rates and they actually earn more as adults.”
“If we don’t get kids’ coverage back on track, we will see long-term impacts on Utah,” she continued.
Mandle said the change would not come overnight and would take a mix of policy change at the state level, as well as outreach and education.
Voice for Utah Children said a large part of the issue is that families are often unaware that they are eligible for coverage.
To find out if your child is eligible for coverage, call 211 or visit Take Care Utah online.