Utah continues to have one of the highest uninsured rates in the country, ranking 44th among states in 2012 according to a new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.
The report uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau and shows that 10.1 percent of Utah children are uninsured. The Census numbers reveal an even starker picture for certain populations:
Latino children in Utah had an uninsurance rate of nearly 35 percent. Though Latino children make up just 17 percent of the state’s child population, they represent 43 percent of uninsured children. In addition, the uninsurance rate for Latino children grew by nearly 10 percentage points between 2010 and 2012.
A third of Utah’s uninsured children live in Salt Lake County. Over 36,000 children lack coverage in the county, more than all but 15 other counties in the rest of the country.
“There’s a lot more we can and should be doing to get all of Utah’s children and families covered,” said Lincoln Nehring, Senior Health Policy Analyst at Voices for Utah Children. “We are on the wrong side of the national average and near the bottom of the list on children’s coverage. Utah can do better.”
Simple improvements to Utah’s Medicaid and CHIP coverage programs, which have been so important to the gains made in children’s coverage across the country, would help bring the state closer to the national average of 7.2 percent. Extending 12 month continuous coverage to families with Medicaid coverage, which would allow them to reapply for coverage one time per year like those with private insurance, would keep more kids covered. Eliminating waiting periods that keep children uninsured for months before they can enroll in CHIP would help families get coverage as soon as they need it. And removing the five-year waiting period that keeps legally-residing non-citizen children from enrolling in CHIP and Medicaid would greatly improve coverage rates.
“Medicaid and CHIP are examples of federal-state partnership programs that work,” said Joan Alker, author of the Georgetown University CCF report. “Together they are improving health insurance coverage for children and are a testament to what states can accomplish when they lean in and work to take advantage of all coverage options to meet the needs of their residents.”
While the CCF report focuses on children’s coverage, Census data also provide some interesting insight into their parents. Less than one-third of low-income adults in the state are currently covered by an employer-sponsored health insurance plan – most would be eligible for Medicaid if Utah accepts funds to expand the program. Utah’s neighbors in Arizona, Colorado and Nevada have decided to accept funds to expand Medicaid to low-income adults, but Utah is still studying the opportunity.
“Many uninsured children in Utah are living in homes with uninsured parents,” said Nehring. “Closing the coverage gap for parents means their kids are more likely to get regular preventive care to keep them healthy and see a health care provider sooner when they are sick. Coverage also makes the whole family more financially secure, which is good for our communities, too.”