Illinois is doing better than most states when it comes to children's health-insurance coverage.
A report released today from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families shows Illinois' rate of uninsured children dropped more than 20 percent from 2013. Kathy Waligora, director of health-reform initiaves at EverThrive Illinois, credited both Illinois' decision to expand Medicaid coverage and the state's All Kids program for helping more young people get access to insurance.
"Health insurance has been shown to be a good return on government investment; it shows higher earnings, a lower likelihood to drop out of high school. They do better as adults," she said. "We're happy that Illinois has committed to kids and is setting ourselves up for a stronger future."
As for the rest of the country, the number of uninsured children dropped to a historic low of 6 percent last year. The report noted that much of that is attributable to changes under the Affordable Care Act, including Medicaid expansion.
Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families, said states that chose to expand their Medicaid coverage saw the biggest drops.
"We found nearly double the rate of decline in uninsured kids that accepted the Medicaid expansion option," she said, "even though these states already had fewer uninsured kids to begin with."
The report listed Cook County, home to the Chicago area, as having the 10th highest rate of uninsured children out of all the counties in the nation. Waligora said many area parents who are living at or near the poverty line may not realize their children are eligible for insurance.
"In-person assistance really makes the biggest difference for low-income communities and for communities of color; and that's where we still have a lot gains to be made in children's coverage."
Waligora suggested that Illinois' next steps should include more outreach and education on the available health-insurance programs in those communities.
The report is online at ccf.georgetown.edu.