Eric Galatas / Public News Service – CO
Even before the coronavirus pandemic brought the economy to its knees, the number of Colorado children without health insurance was on the rise, according to a new Georgetown University Center for Children and Families report. In 2019, 73,000 kids in Colorado were uninsured, a 28% increase from three years earlier.
Erin Miller with the Colorado Children’s Campaign said between 2018 and 2019 alone, nearly 10,000 more Colorado kids lost coverage, the largest single-year increase in more than a decade. “Seventy-three thousand Colorado kids went into the pandemic lacking health insurance coverage, lacking access to health care services, lacking the financial security that health insurance provides,” Miller stated.
Colorado’s rate of uninsured kids, at 5.5%, is close to the national rate of 5.7%, and reverses a long trend of kids gaining coverage. Miller said the numbers are almost certain to climb, since thousands of families lost employer-based coverage in the economic fallout from COVID-19. State revenue shortfalls also led to significant cuts in Colorado’s Healthy Communities program, which helps connect kids and pregnant women with coverage.
Climate of fear
Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, said kids who have health insurance are more likely to graduate from high school, attend college and be healthier, more productive adults. She noted the sharp increase in the number of uninsured children of color is likely linked to the Trump administration’s immigration policies creating a climate of fear.
“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. And so, you see a very large jump in the uninsured rate for Latino children,” Alker asserted. The report also mentions the administration’s efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act, along with additional red tape that makes it harder for families to access Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
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