The Affordable Care Act debuts Tuesday, and new data released by the Utah Department of Health shows the number of Utahns who lack health insurance remained steady between 2011 and 2012.
The data, collected by the Utah Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, shows the percentage of Utahns without insurance remained at slightly over 13 percent—or 377,000 people.
The numbers reflected recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, and both studies showed number of adults without coverage is on the rise, while rates of children without insurance remained steady.
Senior Health Policy Analyst for Voices for Utah Children, Lincoln Nehring, says the trend among children is especially troubling.
“The vast majority of uninsured kids are in households with incomes below 200 percent of poverty, and that means they qualify for Medicaid and CHIP. Utah just has not done a very good job of signing them up."
Public outreach for the Children Health Insurance Program and Medicaid were recently cut. Nehring says lack of awareness paired with burdensome policies for Medicaid has led to high uninsured rates among children.
The aim of the Affordable Care Act is to increase the number of U.S. citizens who are insured. Nehring says the biggest changes Utahns will see are simplified eligibility requirements for Medicaid and more enrollment options.
Though the state’s policy on possible Medicaid expansion has not been decided, Nehring says an expansion would help kids in Utah.
“Children aren’t just kids floating out there by themselves. They’re a part of families—and just because a child has healthcare coverage doesn’t mean they aren’t impacted when their parent has a health event the family can’t afford.”
Many of the low-income households that are currently uninsured would be covered under Medicaid expansion.
“Families and individuals who have access to health coverage are more likely to work, morel likely to pull themselves up by their boot straps and become economically self sufficient.”
Children whose families are at 138 percent of the poverty line or below make up 12 percent of Utah’s uninsured population.
For more on uninsured children below the poverty line, see the statistics.