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By Whitney Tucker 

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North Carolina’s parents and caregivers are struggling to afford health care, and the impact is evident in child well-being outcomes across the state. While the percentage of NC children with health insurance is hovering near an historic high, the number of parents with health coverage is tracking downward again. That has a huge impact on their children – and not just in health care.

NC Child’s new County Data Cards explore fifteen key indicators in every NC county, including educational outcomes, and child abuse & neglect.

You can see how children in your community are faring by checking out NC Child’s 2019 County Data Cards.

More than 100,000 parents in North Carolina are without health coverage due to high costs. Thousands more of those without coverage are women of child-bearing age, whose health will affect the well-being of our state’s next generation. Research shows that when parents have health insurance, they have healthier babies, they are better able to stay healthy and care for their children, and their kids are more likely to have health coverage and use it. Health insurance coverage also has strong anti-poverty effects – reduced out-of-pocket spending, and decreased family medical debt.

The connection between parental health insurance coverage and child well-being plays out in many of the data points:

  • 7 infants of every 1,000 born in North Carolina never live to see their first birthdays.
  • Only half of new moms in high-poverty counties like Robeson and Edgecombe receive prenatal care during their first trimesters, compared with 85% of mothers in Buncombe and Transylvania counties, where incomes are higher.
  • More than 2 out of 3 children in Robeson and Edgecombe counties are in poor or near-poor households, earning below $51,500 for a family of four (that’s 200% of the federal poverty line).

While the overall poverty rate in North Carolina is decreasing, and household income has risen across the state, many parents and caregivers are still unable to afford the high costs of health care. More than one quarter of all North Carolinians work in retail, construction, or food service – industries that rarely offer health insurance to employees. One in five early childhood educators has no health coverage. These low-wage employees, parents, and caregivers are critical to North Carolina’s economy. Without employer-sponsored insurance, it can be nearly impossible for working parents to afford health care when they need it. That’s tough on kids as well as parents.

NC Child is advocating for state legislators to take advantage of a powerful tool to cover more low-income families. They can do this by widening eligibility for the federally-funded Medicaid program, or by creating a North Carolina-specific health insurance option. This approach has been extremely successful in dozens of other states. Many thousands of North Carolina families in all 100 counties would benefit.

The 2019 County Data Cards highlight this issue, along with 15 indicators of child well-being in every county. The data cards are intended to make it easier for parents, health care providers, school administrators, and local elected officials to understand and advocate for the changing needs of children in their own communities.

Whitney Tucker is NC Child’s Research Director

Support NC Child’s work to ensure health and wellness for all NC’s children. Click here to make a donation today.

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