Kids Count: R.I. behind other states in providing health insurance for children

PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island is not keeping pace with other states in insuring children for health coverage, despite the success of a state-focused Medicaid health insurance program, according to Rhode Island Kids Count.
Rhode Island Kids Count Executive Director Elizabeth Burke Bryant planned to share results of a new study at a Children’s Health Luncheon today at noon at the Providence Marriott with community leaders and elected officials, while also taking time to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of RIte Care, a health insurance program offered for low- and moderate- income children and families through Medicaid.
According to a study released Nov. 5 by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute entitled, “Children’s Coverage at A Crossroads: Progress Slows,” Rhode Island was one of only three states in the U.S. that showed an increase in the rate of uninsured children between 2011 and 2013. In the mid-2000s, Rhode Island was, in contrast, one of the top states for children’s health coverage, Bryant said.
This increase, coupled with progress made by other states in covering kids, has meant that Rhode Island’s national ranking has slipped from 8th to 17th in terms of an increase in the percent of children uninsured. The percentage increased from 4 percent in 2011 to 5.4 percent in 2013, according to the study.
“Right now, we are at a critical juncture in terms of our commitment to the health of our most vulnerable children and families,” said Bryant. “Other states are finding ways to finish the job and cover all of their kids. We need to make sure that our long-standing commitment to children’s health coverage does not erode and that we reinvigorate our work to achieve our shared goal of all children in Rhode Island being covered.”
Of the children who had health insurance in Rhode Island in 2013, 53.4 percent received coverage through their parents’ employer-sponsored health plan, 32.8 percent were covered exclusively by Medicaid/RIte Care, 13.8 percent had either another type of coverage or combination of coverage, and 5.4 percent (12,000 children) were uninsured, Bryant said.
A new report also scheduled for release today entitled, “Rite Care Results,” documents how the Medicaid program has improved the health of children, pregnant women and parents, in the following ways:

  • Children with RIte Care have fewer preventable hospitalizations than uninsured children;
  • Children and adults under age 65 with Medicaid coverage have the lowest percentage of emergency admissions to the hospital;
  • Fewer women with RIte Care coverage smoke during pregnancy, which can increase the likelihood of poor birth outcomes.

“We now have 20 years of evidence proving that RIte Care is a wise investment for our state and for families,” Bryant said. “As we look toward the future, we must preserve and build upon RIte Care’s success to ensure that all Rhode Island children have the comprehensive health care they need to grow up strong and healthy.”
To be honored at the luncheon with Covering Kids awards for longstanding commitment to children’s health coverage are: Linda Katz, co-founder and policy director of the Economic Progress Institute; Marti Rosenberg, program director at the Providence Plan; and Tricia Leddy, recently retired from three decades of service at the R.I. Department of Human Services, its executive offices, and at HealthSource RI.

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