Health impacts almost every aspect of a child’s well-being. When children have access to quality health care, they are one step closer to developing into happy, healthy, successful adults. Health insurance coverage is a key component of ensuring children can receive the care they need. While Kentucky leaders have a done a great job increasing the number of children with health insurance coverage, some children still lack insurance. A lack of health insurance can make it difficult for families to pay for doctor visits. Children without insurance are more likely to have untreated medical conditions, like asthma or diabetes. When children don’t visit the dentist twice a year, they might have to endure pain that could have been prevented. Uninsured children often do not receive preventive health care, like vaccinations, and are at risk for getting sick more often. Sick days can be extended into sick weeks, and children can suddenly find themselves behind at school. Not having health insurance can affect a child in lasting ways.
Data from the American Community Survey tell us that from 2008-2012, 6 percent of Kentucky children did not have health insurance. That means every 3 out of 50 children did not have the most important tool for accessing health care. Rates vary widely between counties. Reliable 5-year estimates for 2008-2012 are available for 62 of Kentucky’s 120 counties. At the high end, an estimated 18.2 percent of children in Adair and Crittenden Counties were uninsured. Thirteen of the 62 counties had less than 5.0 percent of children uninsured. Scott and Henry Counties had the lowest rates of uninsured children at 2.7 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively.
The good news is that the proportion of uninsured children has been decreasing over time and disparities in coverage are shrinking. Single-year estimates from the American Community Survey show that from 2009 to 2012 Kentucky’s Black and Hispanic children experienced a greater reduction in the proportion of uninsured children than White children. Also, single-year data from the Small Area Health Insurance Estimates shows that from 2008 to 2012, Kentucky’s low-income children (living at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level) experienced a greater reduction in the proportion of uninsured children than children of all income levels.
As new data is released we will likely see continued improvement in covering Kentucky’s children. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) extended funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, in addition to providing families with options for private health insurance plans. We already know that Kentucky has been a leader in kynect, our state marketplace where people can buy insurance and enroll in Medicaid. As a result, many more Kentuckians are now covered under an insurance plan.