By Elisabeth Wright Burak, Arkansas Advocates for
Children and Families
Here’s a sneak peak at an exciting trend we’ve just
uncovered in recent insurance coverage data. In a nutshell: the number of uninsured kids in Arkansas
is dropping, even as families continue to feel the effects of the recession.
As lawmakers debate the future of Medicaid and the
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), we can’t ignore their continued
success supporting children’s health and parents’ pocketbooks when they need it
most. The recession has hit Arkansas families hard, pushing the state’s child
poverty rate over 27 percent. A bright spot for families, however, is the
availability of ARKids First. In 2010, just 7.3 percent of Arkansas children
under 19 were uninsured, compared to 9.4 percent at the beginning of the
recession in 2008. For perspective, nearly a quarter of all our kids were
uninsured in the late 1990s, before ARKids First started.
ARKids First, Medicaid and CHIP in Arkansas, have kept
children covered even as employers were forced to drop coverage or lay off
workers during the recession. Between September 2008 and September 2010,
enrollment increased by just under 11 percent, or 40,000 children. The rate of
uninsured children eligible for ARKids First (under 200 percent of the federal
poverty line, $36,620 for a family of three) decreased over the same period
from 12.6 percent to 8.6 percent in 2008.
Thanks to ARKids First, thousands more low-income
children got the health coverage they needed during the first two years of the