Wednesday, May 08, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Kids access health care

The number of uninsured kids in Arkansas is on the decline, according to a report from Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.
The annual report highlights advances and suggests improvements in kids’ health coverage.

The number of uninsured children in Arkansas has declined over the past year, now totaling only 6 percent. Thanks to ARKids First and Medicaid, the percentage of children without health insurance has dropped from 22 percent to just 6 percent over the past 16 years.

Arkansas ranks fourth in the nation at enrolling eligible children in ARKids First and Medicaid with 92.5 percent of eligible kids enrolled. Thanks to strong outreach, enrollment simplifications and policy changes, the state has fewer uninsured children than last year.

But the report warns that 6 percent uninsured rate translates to 46,000 children without coverage. The report, “Crossing the Finish Line 2012: Nearing the home stretch for covering kids and parents in Arkansas,” says some groups are disproportionately uninsured, including children in west, northwest and central Arkansas; Hispanic and Marshallese children, and adolescents age 11-18.

Anna Strong, Arkansas Advocates for Children health policy director, says the state is moving closer and closer toward AACF’s goal of making sure all children have access to quality health coverage. “Arkansas’ new ‘private option’ legislation will provide access to health coverage for about 80,000 uninsured parents in the state,” Strong says. “As parents get coverage, their children will, too. So, that’s a great achievement. We also expect to see the number of uninsured children drop thanks to the Affordable Care Act. We’re already starting to see additional benefits of the law kick in. For example, children can no longer be denied coverage for having a pre-existing condition like asthma or a congenital heart defect.”

Strong says effective, targeted outreach and smooth enrollment procedures will help ensure that all children and families get enrolled and stay enrolled. Thanks to our state legislature, which last month overwhelmingly approved the private option, a quarter million working poor will qualify for medical insurance. All of this adds up to a healthier Arkansas.