Uninsured Children

Research shows that children who have health insurance coverage see long-term benefits, including being more likely to complete high school and graduate from college. (palichka/Pixabay)

(Des Moines) -- The number of Iowa children without health care insurance is slowing inching up - a red flag, according to children's advocates who track the impact on families.

A new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families shows 2.7% of Iowa children lack health insurance.

That's up about 1,000 children from two years ago.

That might not seem like a lot, but Anne Discher, executive director of the Child and Family Policy Center at the Iowa Department of Human Services, says it's a sign that progress has been reversed.

"It certainly marks a shift from many years where we've been able to decrease the share of children who are uninsured in our state," she states.

Georgetown has compiled the nationwide rates for uninsured children for nine years. The report says continual efforts to undercut the Affordable Care Act has made health insurance harder to get, or kept families from enrolling their children.

The report notes one group with the most pronounced loss of coverage is Latino children, possibly due to immigrant parents' fear of interacting with the government.

Discher says Iowa children with health insurance are more likely to attend school regularly and because they have access to medicine, they're less likely to be absent due to chronic diseases such as asthma.

"It has long-term effects too, in terms of kids who are insured are more likely to graduate from high school, they're more likely to go onto to higher education, and they're more likely to get a good job as adults," she states. "So, it's got both immediate ramifications and long-term ramifications."

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, says the trend of fewer children having health coverage doesn't bode well for a nation experiencing a strong economy.

"This is a time of relatively low unemployment rates, and children really should be gaining health coverage, but they're not," she states. "So, should an economic downturn occur, the child uninsured rate would probably increase more rapidly than what we're seeing now."

The study found the number of uninsured children in the U.S. increased by more than 400,000 between 2016 and 2018, bringing the total number to 4 million nationwide.