WA a leader in kids health coverage, but ACA may provide a boost

With health care reform currently underway, analysts and advocates are working to determine what effects the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will have on specific populations – including children.

Thanks to good policy making (and good legislators), Washington is a national leader in providing health coverage for kids. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Washington ranks 8th in percent of kids with health coverage. Much of this is due to Apple Health for Kids, a state program providing free coverage for low-income kids with family incomes up to 200% of the federal poverty level, and low-cost coverage for kids up to 300% of the federal poverty level – about $69,000 for a family of four.

children without health insurance, united states, 2010

However, there’s still work to do. Census data shows about 6%, or nearly 98,000 Washington children were uninsured in 2011. The vast majority of these kids are already eligible for coverage through Apple Health, but remain uncovered largely because their parents aren’t aware of the program. The ACA won’t help much with outreach and publicity of Apple Health, but experts expect a greater share of these uninsured children to gain coverage as access to affordable coverage increases for their parents. As parents become insured, their kids will too – increasing coverage rates even among those who were already eligible.

Although Washington is one of the best states for kids health coverage, it’s important to note which populations continue to lack health insurance – and why. For low-income families, a major barrier to coverage is access to information. Many families simply aren’t aware of Apple Health or the health reform efforts already underway. As these efforts continue, it’s important to remember that outreach and information are critical to ensuring the best health outcomes for all Washingtonians.

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