Health insurance form

More than a year after Idaho expanded Medicaid to include the so-called “working poor,” some Idahoans have their sights set on further expanding access to coverage.

Several groups in Idaho, including Saint Alphonsus Health System and several medical professional and advocacy organizations, plan to kick off the Idaho Kids Covered campaign on Tuesday that seeks to get 100% of children insured.

“Before the pandemic, too many children in Idaho were uninsured. And in 2019, 24,000 children in Idaho did not have health coverage. At a time when we’re working to recover from a public health crisis, it’s been very clear the importance of health care access,” said Hillarie Hagen, a health policy analyst for Idaho Voices for Children, which is spearheading the effort.

Georgetown University says 5% — or one in 20 — of children in Idaho did not have health insurance in 2019. Since 2008, that rate has dropped from 12.8%, but the rate of Idaho kids uninsured is still slightly higher than the record lows in 2016 and 2017. Nationally, 5.7% of children were uninsured in 2019, the latest data reported by Georgetown shows.

The data was collected before Medicaid expanded in Idaho to include more of the working poor. Among people who made too much to qualify for Medicaid under today’s wider eligibility standards, 6.1% of kids were uninsured — more than those whose families would qualify for Medicaid and more than people earning much more.

About 92% of uninsured children in Idaho could be enrolled in public assistance through Medicaid or CHIP, the children’s health insurance program.

“Many children who are eligible for Medicaid/CHIP may not be enrolled due to a lack of public outreach or administrative barriers,” reads Georgetown University’s Children’s Health Care Report Card for Idaho. “The child participation rates show the percentage of eligible children who are enrolled in Medicaid/CHIP.”

Before making specific recommendations for policy changes, the Idaho initiative is exploring health care gaps, Hagen said. At a virtual launch at noon Tuesday, Idaho Kids Covered organizers will preview the campaign. Visit bit.ly/IdahoKidsInsurance to register.

Reporter Kyle Pfannenstiel can be reached at 208-542-6754. Follow him on Twitter: @pfannyyy. He is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

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