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In the world of social programs, Medicaid is one of the hardest to understand. It’s something of a catch-all program for low-income people, covering broad and divergent needs. Included are healthy children and adults with eligible dependent children, people with disabilities or special health needs, and the elderly. Eligibility is income-based and it varies according the category of qualification for the program.During the state’s 2011 fiscal year, more than three quarters of the funding allocated to the Department of Health and Welfare’s budget went to Medicaid. The program received about $1.55 billion in federal and state funding, with 74 percent of those dollars coming from the federal government.Enrollment in Idaho’s Medicaid program has grown substantially in recent years. The average monthly Medicaid enrollment was fairly stable between 2006 and 2008. It grew by about 3.5 percent. But in the last three years, the program’s enrollment has grown nearly 21 percent. Ballooning from about 185,000 in 2008 to 228,897 in 2012.

The Number Of Kids Without Health Insurance Is Going Up

Medical, Health Care
Emilie Ritter Saunders
/
Boise State Public Radio

The number of uninsured children across the country has increased for the first time in more than a decade.

Despite a strong economy and low unemployment, close to 4 million children in the U.S. do not have health insurance.

In Utah that number by grew by 12,000 last year alone according to a new study from Georgetown University. That’s the second-highest leap in the country.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown, helped write the report.

She says those numbers are concerning but expects more kids in Utah to get coverage after voters chose to expand Medicaid last month.

“Expanding Medicaid is really the only thing a state could do at this point to counteract these negative, national trends,” Alker says.

She credits a federal push to repeal the Affordable Care Act with leading people to believe coverage doesn’t exist or that they won’t qualify.

“Families were getting a lot of messages that coverage was being taken away and at the same time money was being cut by the Trump administration for community-based navigators and advertising.”

In Wyoming, 1,000 more children went without coverage, while the report found few changes in Colorado or Idaho.

Alker says the number of uninsured kids is likely to increase again should lawmakers enact proposals to set new eligibility limits on public assistance programs like Medicaid.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado. 

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