Report: Insurance Coverage for Tenn. Children Stagnant While Neighbors Flourish

Unlike many other states in the country, Tennessee is not seeing a significant reduction in the number of uninsured children, according to a report released this week. Credit: anitapeppers/morguefile.com

Unlike many other states in the country, Tennessee is not seeing a significant reduction in the number of uninsured children, according to a report released this week. Credit: anitapeppers/morguefile.com

Tennessee isn’t making much progress when it comes to getting children insured, according to a report released this week by the Georgetown Center for Children and Families. According to the report, states that expanded coverage under the Affordable Care Act saw greater reductions in the number of uninsured children. Michele Johnson, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, says neighboring Kentucky is a prime example. “When you have states like Kentucky and Tennessee that are almost identical and you see such incredible improvements for the children in Kentucky and you don’t see that in Tennessee, you can’t really understand that in any other context,” she points out. In Tennessee just over 5.2 percent of children were uninsured in 2014, just slightly lower than 2013 numbers. Kentucky saw a more significant reduction, with a 27 percent decline in the number of uninsured children. Advocates for Medicaid expansion, which largely offers coverage to parents in the coverage gap, say there’s a proven direct correlation to the coverage of parents and success at offering insurance to their children. Joan Alker, lead author of the report, explains why coverage for parents and children is equally important. “Many people don’t think about Medicaid expansion as a kids issue but we know from past research that covering parents results in what we call a strong welcome mat effect for kids,” she stresses. “That means when the parent learns about their own coverage opportunity they also may learn their child is eligible.” Johnson says adequate access to health coverage improves the ability of children to access and benefit from education, and lays the foundation for them to have insurance as adults. “Children who are insured have much brighter futures, and we in Tennessee really can’t afford to let our children continue to go without coverage,” she states. According to the report, a larger percentage of children in the South lack insurance – making up 38 percent of the nation’s children. The Northeast has the lowest percentage of uninsured.