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Iowa sees increase in uninsured kids, but still low among states

DES MOINES — Iowa is seeing a slight upturn in the number of uninsured children but the Hawkeye State still has one of the lowest rates in the country.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, says there are many reasons more children are falling into the ranks of the uninsured.

“We’re seeing more red tape that states are requiring families to provide more pay stubs more frequently,” Alker says. “Some families are simply getting cut off because they never got a piece of mail saying it was time to renew their coverage.”

A report finds more than 20,000 Iowa children, or about 2.7%, were listed as uninsured in 2017, the most recent year the figures were released. That’s a modest increase from 2.2% uninsured Iowa children in 2016. Nationwide, the rate of uninsured children increased from four-point-seven percent in 2016 to five-percent in 2017, almost twice Iowa’s rate.

“These results are so troubling because they are occurring during a period of relatively low unemployment and economic growth — when you think children should be gaining health coverage, but they’re not,” Alker says. “That really reflects the high cost of dependent coverage for low-wage families.” The report finds more than four-million children nationwide have no health insurance.

“It’s really, frankly, a high cost for many families, regardless of income,” Alker says. “Because of this, we believe the uninsured child rate may increase even more rapidly should an economic downturn occur, which we know it will, eventually.” The Georgetown report finds more than half of all uninsured children live in the South. More than one in five of the nation’s uninsured kids live in Texas, where the 2017 rate was 835,000 children, or 10.7%, almost four times Iowa’s rate.

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