Arkansas sees uninsured children increasing at alarming rate


Experts say with the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation is likely worse today.

NORTHWEST, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — New data released by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families found Arkansas is seeing its number of uninsured children increase at an alarming rate, much like other parts of the nation.

There are now approximately 43,000 uninsured children in Arkansas, up from 30,000 in 2016. That’s a 40-percent increase in four years. Read the full report here.

This negative trend that we’re seeing with more kids being uninsured is very, very troubling.


Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families Executive Director Rich Huddleston said this data is alarming, especially since it took place during a time of economic growth.

“It should have been declining because of the good economy, but that’s not what this report found,” he said.

Huddleston said there are a number of factors as to why this is happening, such as large cuts in outreach and enrollment assistance.

“That means fewer parents who don’t know their eligible for ARKids First, that also means less assistance to help them get enrolled,” he said.

The numbers are likely to be higher due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Marti Sharkey

Dr. Marti Sharkey, with the Rainbow Pediatric Clinic, said this can have a domino effect on children as they grow into adults.

Dr. Sharkey is also the City of Fayetteville City Health Officer.

“Finally when they’re sick enough that they have to go in, they are so sick, we have a really hard time getting their disease under control,” she said.

“Our homeless rates for public school students are amazingly high in Northwest Arkansas, especially Fayetteville.”

Huddleston said a way to start reducing these numbers starts with awareness and realizing the issues exists.

“We definitely need to step up our outreach and enrollment efforts,” he said. “This is not just a problem for that individual, it’s a problem for our whole community as well.”

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families full press release:

An estimated 43,000 Arkansas children were uninsured last year, a number that has increased about 43 percent since 2016, according to a new report released by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. Arkansas’s experience is part of a national trend that left an estimated 726,000 more children without health coverage nationwide since our country achieved a historic low number of uninsured children. Much of the coverage gains of the Affordable Care Act for children have now been eliminated. Coverage losses have been concentrated in the South and West and have been largest for White and Latino children.

“For decades, children’s health coverage had been a national success story that we could point to with pride, but the data shows the trend is now going in the wrong direction,” said Georgetown University Center for Children and Families Executive Director Joan Alker. “What’s worse, the number of children losing coverage accelerated from 2018 to 2019 during a time when unemployment was very low. The situation is likely worse today.”

The increase in the number and rate of uninsured children occurred prior to the pandemic and associated economic downturn and is attributable to losses of public coverage – primarily Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The situation has most likely deteriorated in 2020 for children as their parents lost their jobs and health coverage this year, but there is still no reliable data to estimate the extent of these coverage losses.

“We are now seeing a growing number of Arkansas’s children going without health coverage, after successfully reducing the child uninsured rate in our state in past years,” said Rich Huddleston, Executive Director of Arkansas Advocates for Children & Families. “This damaging trend will have long-term consequences for children and communities across Arkansas because, without health coverage, children cannot access the care they need to grow and thrive.”

Research shows children with health coverage are more likely to graduate from high school, attend college, and grow up to be healthier and more productive adults.

“This data proves that it’s more important than ever to redouble outreach and enrollment efforts and cut red tape in enrollment so more kids can get and stay covered,” Huddleston said.

The report analyzes single-year estimates of summary data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) from 2016 through 2019.

This is the 10th annual report on uninsured children published by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, an independent, nonpartisan policy and research center founded in 2005 with a mission to expand and improve high-quality, affordable coverage for America’s children and families. The report analyzes single-year estimates of summary data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) from 2016 through 2019.

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families

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