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Report finds more kids in Tenn. uninsured

Kinika Young, Director of Children’s Health at the Tennessee Justice Center. Online photo. 

Analysis shows the growth rate of uninsured kids in Tennessee is among the highest in the nation.

By Bethany Anderson

A recent report released by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, shed some light on an issue affecting communities statewide as it focused on Tennessee experiencing one of the nation’s most significant increases in the uninsured rate of children.
By the numbers, the report showed that 71,000 or 4.4 percent of children were uninsured in 2017, making for a total of 13,000 more uninsured children than in 2016.
The number of uninsured children nationwide increased by about 276,000 children last year, the first significant increase in a decade. An estimated 3.9 million children were uninsured nationwide in 2017.
The report added that three-quarters of the children who lost coverage between 2016 and 2017 live in states that have not expanded Medicaid.
Tennessee is among the states that have not expanded Medicaid.
“Tennessee’s choice not to expand Medicaid leaves our children and families behind,” said Kinika Young, Director of Children’s Health at the Tennessee Justice Center.
Young said that Medicaid expansion helps to get health insurance to more parents who had no coverage options before, and we know when parents have health coverage kids are more likely to as well.
“This helps kids get and stay healthy, so they can enter school ready to learn and succeed in life,” she said.
According to Young, another choice leading to tens of thousands of children losing coverage just in the past year is “Tennessee’s decision to forge ahead with redeterminations without a functioning computer system.”
“The state has failed to take any steps to protect children from getting caught up in this red tape,” Young said. “This increase in the child uninsured rate, particularly in states that did not expand Medicaid, is a warning sign to policymakers,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University research center and lead author of the report. Barring new and serious efforts to get back on track, there is every reason to believe the decline in children’s coverage is likely to continue and may get worse.”
Jayne Harper, the Johnson County Health Department’s Public Information Officer, emphasized that the Johnson County Health Department provides care to all eligible community members.
“Most of those eligible are children receiving services covered by TN Care, the name of Medicaid coverage in Tennessee.”
However, Harper added that Johnson County is not one of the facilities that provide primary care services, “Some local health departments throughout the state provide primary care services, but JCHD is not one of the departments providing primary care.” Harper said.
Officials admitted that with Johnson County Health Department not providing primary care services it is hard to get an accurate count of the County’s uninsured children.
Analysis also shows the growth rate of uninsured kids in Tennessee is among the highest in the nation.
The Tennessee Justice Center (TJC) is a non-profit public interest law and advocacy firm serving families in Tennessee. It gives priority to policy issues and civil cases in which the most basic necessities of life are at stake and where advocacy can benefit needy families statewide. TJC works to empower its clients by holding government accountable for its policies and actions.
TJC was established in 1996 and is located at 211 Seventh Avenue, North, Nashville, TN. For additional information about the Tennessee Justice Center and its services, call 615-255-0331.