Health study: 7,000 more Michigan children were uninsured in 2018

Doctor showing CT scan to patient in examination room at hospital | Getty Images

Michigan has seen a 10% jump in the number of children without health insurance between 2016 and 2018, a new Georgetown University report shows.

Uninsured children by state | Georgetown University study

The study released in October from the university’s Health Policy Institute Center for Children and families found that there’s been a spike of 400,000 more children lacking health insurance in the United States, bringing the total to more than 4 million kids.

“For many years, the nation has been on a positive trajectory reducing the number and rate of uninsured children.” write researchers Joan Alker and Lauren Roygardner. “… Recently released data show that this progress is now in jeopardy. For the second year in a row, the uninsured rate and number of uninsured children moved in the wrong direction. This is unprecedented since comparable data began to be collected in 2008.”

Michigan had 71,000 uninsured residents younger than 19 in 2016. That’s climbed to 78,000 in 2018, meaning 7,000 more kids lack coverage. The percentage of uninsured children has increased from 3.1% to 3.4%.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Bob Wheaton called this development in the state “disturbing.”

Number of Michiganders without health insurance rises in 2018

“MDHHS aims to provide opportunities to children and families,” he said. “It is very disturbing to see that more children in Michigan and nationally are uninsured and thus don’t have the coverage they need to lead healthy lives and do well in school. The federal government has taken a number of actions that are noted in the report that appear to have decreased the number of children insured nationally. MDHHS will continue to advocate against these types of policies and advocate for policies that will provide health insurance coverage to more children and families.”

Michigan is one of eight states that saw the number of people without health insurance significantly rise from 2017 to 2018, according to new U.S. census data.

In 2017, there were 510,000 uninsured people in Michigan. In 2018, there were 535,000 — so 25,000 fewer residents had health coverage. Across the nation, 2 million more people were uninsured in 2018 compared to 2017, for a total if 27.5 million. This was the first increase since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect in 2014.

The national percentage of uninsured children has increased from 4.7% in 2016 to 5.2% in 2018.

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The study said that both the national number of uninsured children and the child uninsured rate are now at the highest levels since 2014, when the ACA’s major coverage expansions first took effect. Many of the post-ACA gains have been wiped out.

“This trend is particularly troubling as it occurred during a period of economic growth when children should be gaining health coverage,” Alker and Roygardner write. “The child uninsured rate may increase more rapidly should an economic downturn occur.”

Rate of uninsured children | Georgetown University study

The authors cite several factors for the increase since 2016:

  • The GOP-led Congress repealing the ACA individual mandate
  • Congress delaying the re-authorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that covers low-income children
  • State cuts and regulations to Medicaid
  • The President Trump administration’s crackdown on benefits for immigrants
President Donald J. Trump speaks with reporters after disembarking Air Force One Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019 at Joint Base Andrews, Md. | Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead, Flickr

A spokeswoman for the liberal political action committee Priorities Michigan said that the blame lies in President Donald Trump’s attempts to kill the ACA.

“Donald Trump’s relentless attacks on health care have left thousands of Michiganders more vulnerable, including 7,000 kids who have lost coverage,” said spokeswoman Annika Donner. “In addition to worrying about skyrocketing health care costs, families also have to worry about instead having access to coverage. Donald Trump doesn’t have a health care plan — just a plan to take yours away.”

The impact has been most pronounced in states that did not expand Medicaid under the ACA, as Michigan did in 2014. Children in non-expansion states are about twice as likely to be uninsured as those in states that have expanded Medicaid.

The states with the biggest increases were Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia. Only one state, North Dakota, had more kids with health coverage during the two-year span.

Photo from Reshot

Alker and Roygardner found that the hardest-hit groups nationwide were: white and Latino children, young children under age 6 and children in low- and moderate-income families who earn between 138 and 250% of poverty ($29,435 to $53,325 annually for a family of three).

American Indian/Alaska Native children continue to have the highest uninsured rates by race, the study notes. African American children saw a slight improvement in their coverage rates during this period, however.

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Susan J. Demas is an 18-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.