Gov. Herbert addresses issue of ‘too many’ uninsured children, CHIP enrollment

ST. GEORGE — After years of ranking near the top for population growth, business environment and job creation, the latest U.S. Census report offered a surprising result for Utah. The 2015 data ranked Utah at 43rd in the nation in terms of overall uninsured children.

About 65,000 kids are still uninsured,” said Jessie Mandle, senior health policy analyst for Voices for Utah Children.

Of particular concern are Hispanic children, she said. The data shows Utah at the bottom of the list in this demographic, with one in six Hispanic children without health insurance.

As a result, Take Care Utah, a network of nonprofit organizations focused on helping people with health insurance, is working with Gov. Gary Herbert’s office to bring attention and resources to address this gap.

The latest effort occurred last week when Herbert released a special video to address the issue, acknowledging that “too many of our kids are uninsured, even though they qualify for CHIP” and encouraging parents to get free and confidential help by calling Take Care Utah at 2-1-1.

See video above from Herbert. Click here for Spanish video.

CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, was created in 1997 by Sens. Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy. This joint state and federal program provides coverage to eligible children with a household income up to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level – or approximately $48,600 per year for a family of four.

CHIP is up for funding renewal in October, Mandle said, and organizations like Take Care Utah and Voices for Utah Children were pleased to see Herbert get behind the drive to make sure children are insured.

Seeing the governor’s video is really exciting,” Mandle said, “and it speaks to the need for Congress to renew CHIP quickly and cleanly. … We think it’s time for Congress to act on a clean renewal for CHIP so that thousands of kids that are benefiting from CHIP can continue to have coverage.”

According to a fact sheet from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families and the American Academy of Pediatrics, approximately 215,000 children in Utah rely on CHIP and Medicaid to access the care they need, including well-child checkups, immunizations and dental care.

While Utah ranks poorly when it comes to uninsured children, these numbers actually reflect an increase in coverage over the past eight years, a fact Mandle acknowledged but at the same time said was an area that needs to be improved.

“We’re still in the bottom tier, and we do have the highest rate of uninsured Hispanic kids,” she said, “but we’ve made a lot of progress.”

Even though CHIP is a bipartisan program, Mandle said they are still concerned about approval for funding renewal given the many families who depend on the program and the states that depend on the funding, as well as the fact that Congress hasn’t acted yet. (see Ed. note)

Additionally, she said, CHIP is just one part of the overall picture, and the future of some aspects of this “overall picture” is a little more uncertain. Mandle said:

The (Affordable Care Act), Medicaid and CHIP are these programs that are working together to provide kids with coverage. We’re seeing progress because of ACA, CHIP and Medicaid working together. But we still have a ways to go. It’s important to build on the progress we’ve made and acknowledge that and then keep moving forward.

For those looking for help with insurance questions, especially where uninsured children are concerned, Take Care Utah has over 100 trained navigators and application counselors located all across Utah who can offer outreach and enrollment assistance to Utah residents free of charge. Most Utah navigators and applications counselors are based in health clinics, hospitals, nonprofit organizations, schools, libraries and insurance brokerages.

Over the last few years Take Care Utah’s affiliates have helped over 450,000 Utahns to better understand their new insurance options. To locate the nearest Take Care Utah assistant, go to the Take Care Utah website, or call 2-1-1 from anywhere in the state.

Ed. note: Updated April 12 at 11:55 a.m. with clarification of Voices for Utah Children’s stance on CHIP funding approval.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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  • CaliGirl April 11, 2017 at 10:28 pm

    These same people get HUGE amounts back on their tax returns – earned income credit – for earning low wages and having children. Maybe we should abolish that or force them to use the refund to purchase 1-yr of insurance coverage for those children.

    • comments April 12, 2017 at 11:07 am

      Someone a little jealous?

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