By Rob Thompson
Health insurance coverage is a fundamental first step in promoting the health of our children. For years, health insurance coverage rates for Latino children have lagged far behind their peers, but a new report shows that more and more Latino children are gaining health insurance due to the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)—the bedrock programs and policies providing access to high quality health care for our nation’s children. Unfortunately, Congress and President-elect Trump have promised major rollbacks to these programs that would jeopardize this progress.
The report, authored by the Georgetown Center for Children and Families (Georgetown CCF) and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), shows that the rate of uninsured Latino children in North Carolina dropped from 12 percent to 9.3 percent from 2013 to 2015, a time period that coincides with the implementation of major provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Despite this progress, the rate of uninsured Latino children in North Carolina is higher than the national average and higher than any other racial or ethnic group in the state other than American Indians.
While North Carolina lags behind other states when it comes to enrolling Latino children, the most recent numbers represent continued progress in providing access to care and reducing troubling racial disparities. What’s more encouraging is that the vast majority of uninsured Latino children are currently eligible for coverage under Medicaid or SCHIP, but not enrolled. This means that still more progress is possible with enhanced outreach and enrollment efforts.
But this additional progress is only possible if Medicaid and SCHIP remain accessible. The ACA requires states to maintain current eligibility levels, but that requirement might be eliminated if Congress repeals the ACA. That could leave Latino children particularly vulnerable to new eligibility restrictions.
Furthermore, Congress is considering drastic cuts to Medicaid. Medicaid is the backbone health insurance program for North Carolina’s children, particularly those with disabilities. Current proposals to block grant Medicaid or implement per capita spending limits would result in massive funding cuts and weakened standards for the quality of care. This could limit coverage opportunities for Latino children and actually result in a reversal of recent progress.
At NC Child, we celebrate the important gains our state and country has made in providing Latino children with health insurance. To protect and build on this progress, we call on North Carolina’s congressional delegation, particularly Senator Burr who plays an important role in these debates, to oppose any changes to Medicaid, SCHIP, or the ACA that could move us backwards. And we ask you to join us—click here to join the NC Coalition to Protect Child and Family Health.
Rob Thompson is the Senior Policy and Communications Advisor at NC Child.