Number of kids who don't have insurance is on the rise

The number of uninsured children in the U.S. increased for the second year in a row, reaching the highest level since the Obama-era Affordable Care Act became law, according to a new report.

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Roughly 4 million children in the U.S. did not have health insurance — a number that rose by more than 400,000 since 2016, according to the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. The rate of uninsured children, meanwhile, climbed to 5.2 percent last year, up from 4.7 percent in 2016.

It’s a somewhat surprising trend, given that uninsured rates generally fall during times of economic prosperity. (When people have jobs, they probably also have access to employer-sponsored health insurance). In September, the unemployment rate hit its lowest rate since 1969.

FILE - President Donald Trump, with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, arrives at the Capitol to rally support for the Republican health care overhaul by taking his case directly to GOP lawmakers two days before the House plans a climacti

Critics placed the blame on the Trump administration, saying that several factors contributed to the hike in the uninsured rate, including: Efforts to dismantle the ACA and cut Medicaid; delays in funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program; cuts to enrollment outreach and advertising, and the repeal of the individual mandate, the ACA tenet that required Americans to either purchase health insurance or pay a fine.

Now, the health care law is in the midst of a murky legal battle, with its future uncertain.

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"This is a very troubling trend and mainly due to the fact that children are losing Medicaid and CHIP coverage," Joan Alker, executive director of Georgetown’s Center for Children and Families, said in a statement.

The report, which was based on U.S. Census Bureau data, found seven states where the uninsured rate for children rose the most sharply: Tennessee, Georgia, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Florida, and Ohio. In Texas, more than one in five children does not have health insurance -- or about 21.5 percent of kids.

"For these kids, no coverage often means no care," American Academy of Pediatrics said in a statement.

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"No care means fewer preventive screenings to catch conditions before they become severe and costly," the Illinois-based organization continued. "No care means more missed school and work days for parents. It means no access to affordable dental coverage, or prenatal services for pregnant mothers. We can do better, and we must."

Still, the uninsured rate is nowhere near as low as it was in 2008 (the year Georgetown began tracking these figures), when 7.6 million children, or about 10 percent of kids nationwide, lacked health coverage.

The overall uninsured rate for people of all ages rose last year for the first time in a decade, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2018, 8.5 percent of the population, or about 27.5 million people, did not have health insurance at any point. That’s almost a 2 million increase from 2017, when 7.9 percent of the population, or about 25.6 million people, were uninsured.

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