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Families living with health insurance, and without: New storybook highlights why all Utah children need health insurance

Throughout the pandemic, health insurance has been a critical lifeline for Utah families to stay healthy and avoid medical debt. Yet many Utah children and parents are still unable to access any form of health insurance; they are denied coverage due to their immigration status. A new digital storybook, released by Voices for Utah Children, highlights families’ real-life experiences with health insurance and medical care. The stories reveal how having health insurance- or not having it- can alter a child’s life course.

The digital book is a collection of accounts shared by children, parents and caregivers across Utah. To protect the privacy and sensitive material shared, names were changed. The book includes accounts of children growing up without health insurance; the short and long-term positive impact of CHIP and Medicaid for children; immigrants and asylees finding the care they need; and children being denied care due to immigration status, while their siblings born in the United States can access care.

The storybook humanizes a problem that is often ignored: today in Utah, thousands of Utah children are still shut out of health coverage. As one DACA- recipient recounts in the book, growing up her families was “Too scared of the cost to go to the ER.”

However, there are glimpses of hope on the horizon. In the 2022 General Session, the Utah Legislature considered a bill that would allow all income-eligible children to enroll in Medicaid or CHIP, regardless of their background or immigration status. The bill, sponsored by Senator Luz Escamilla and Representative Mike Schultz, passed the Senate with broad support, but ran out of time in the House.

The book lifts up the stories behind the 2022 legislation. Previous reports from Voices for Utah Children have estimated the significant state savings if all children have coverage. The digital storybook shows the emotional, physical and financial costs families pay when their children are denied health insurance, and the life-changing benefits when families are able to get coverage.

Download Storybook Today!

Published in News & Blog

Salt Lake City - Voices for Utah Children released publicly today (January 6, 2021)  "#InvestInUtahKids: An Agenda for Utah's New Governor and Legislature," the first major publication of our new #InvestInUtahKids initiative. 

Utah begins a new era in this first week of January, with the swearing in of a new Governor and Lt. Governor and a new Legislature. The arrival of 2021 marks the first time in over a decade that the state has seen this kind of leadership transition. Last month Voices for Utah Children began sharing with the Governor-elect and his transition teams the new publication, and on Wednesday morning Voices will share it with the public as well.

The new publication raises concerns about the growing gaps among Utah's different racial, ethnic, and economic groups and lays out the most urgent and effective policies to close those gaps and help all Utah children achieve their full potential in the years to come in five policy areas: 

  • Early education 
  • K-12 education 
  • Healthcare
  • Juvenile justice
  • Immigrant family justice

The report, which was initially created in December and distributed to the incoming Governor and his transition teams, closes with a discussion of how to pay for the proposed #InvestInUtahKids policy agenda. The pdf of the report can be downloaded here

Published in News & Blog
July 30, 2020

Children’s Health

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It’s been a busy end-of-year for Utah kids’ health coverage, from ACA open enrollment to full Medicaid expansion (almost!). Here’s what’s been going on and what lies ahead in 2020...

Where are Utah kids going??


At the last Utah Medicaid Advisory Committee meeting, we learned that 398 children dis-enrolled from Medicaid and CHIP in October. While this is better than the 2,637 who lost coverage the previous month (no, that’s not a typo), the question remains: Where are these kids going?? Are they moving over to the private insurance market? Or are they uninsured? Unfortunately, we still don’t know.

American Community Survey data suggest lower income children are the most likely to be uninsured in Utah. However, we do not have good real-time data to track why Utah kids are dis-enrolling from Medicaid or CHIP at such an unprecedented rate.

Reasons for this coverage loss may include red tape and confusion about children’s health insurance options, and federal anti-immigrant hostilities creating a climate of fear for many families. But again, our best data has a one-year lag time. It is critical we make sure kids are getting connected with health insurance now. We know from research that when kids go uninsured it has a negative impact on their life trajectory.

We commend our state agencies for their attention to this issue; we urge them to survey families who recently lost coverage so that we can make sure kids are getting covered and staying covered.

Full Medicaid expansion*… coming soon to Utah?

In November, the Utah Department of Health submitted its “fallback” waiver request to fully expand Medicaid! On December 7th, the federal comment period closed. THANK YOU to the over 4,800 people who submitted federal and state comments.

We now await federal approval for Utah to enact full Medicaid expansion. It’s been a long, complicated road, but we just might get there. Find out if you’re eligible for Medicaid.

*Unfortunately, this is not exactly the expansion Utahns voted for. Our state is tacking on harmful work requirements, premiums, surcharges and red tape to Medicaid coverage for the newly eligible. These added requirements will make it harder for Utah parents and children to get care. If approved, we will work hard to prevent these provisions from causing families to lose the coverage and care they need.

Have a story to share about how Medicaid coverage will make a difference in your life? Share your story here.

Open Enrollment: Last Day to Apply is December 15th!

In need of health insurance for you or your family? Call 2-1-1 or visit TakeCareUtah.org to learn more about the health insurance marketplace.

What’s coming up in 2020?

We are excited to see many opportunities- big and small- to help Utah kids and parents get connected with health insurance in 2020:

  • Expanded texting support to help kids and families connect with coverage, thanks to an exciting new campaign through United Way of Salt Lake.
  • Medicaid outreach from the Utah Department of Health! The Department is hiring outreach workers to help eligible individuals learn about Medicaid expansion. This is an exciting step to help more parents enroll.
  • Finally, the Utah Department of Health will -hopefully- be releasing guidelines for Medicaid ACOs, which will allow them to remind eligible members of their upcoming renewals. Many eligible individuals often lose coverage when their renewal is due. (Legislation passed in 2019 on this issue, but the guidelines have yet to be released)

… And so much more! Here’s to a 2020 where more Utah kids and families can get access to affordable health coverage and care!

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Updates on kids coverage in Utah: Kids are losing Medicaid/CHIP coverage, meanwhile Utah is still paying more to cover fewer people…and more!

Why are Utahns paying more to cover fewer people?

Under Utah’s current partial expansion plan (aka the “bridge plan”), Utah is paying 30% more to cover thousands of fewer kids and families on Medicaid. To date, around 34,000 new individuals have enrolled in Medicaid coverage, although at least 50,000 still remain in the gap, unable to afford coverage on their own and not offered it through their job. Utah has left at least $7 million in federal funds on the table so far-- funds that could be used to help more families get coverage and care. (New update: latest reports state the Trump administration will reject Utah's partial expansion. It's time to stop paying more to cover fewer people.)

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Alarming Trend in Kids' Medicaid/CHIP Coverage

Utah kids are dis-enrolling from Medicaid/ CHIP at an alarming rate. At the July Utah Medicaid Advisory Committee meeting we learned that over 2,000 kids lost Medicaid/CHIP coverage last month. Such a steep drop cannot be explained by a strong economy alone. The number of Utah kids leaving CHIP/ Medicaid are among the highest in the nation. Both the Utah Department of Health and Department of Workforce Services have committed to doing additional investigation as to WHY kids are losing coverage. We greatly appreciate that they are taking this issue seriously and are working to find answers.

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Utah Medicaid Advisory Committee Once Again Prioritizes 12-Month Continuous Eligibility- Let's Keep Kids Covered!

For the third straight year, the Utah Medicaid Advisory Committee prioritized 12-month continuous eligibility for children on Medicaid as one of their top funding requests to the Governor. 12-month continuous eligibility would allow more kids to get covered- and stay covered. Current Medicaid reporting requirements mean many kids unnecessarily lose coverage, with cascading negative impacts. This policy would protect kids and families. The Utah Medicaid Advisory Committee has continually prioritized this as a cost-effective, best practice to keep kids healthy, consistently voting in favor of the Utah Department of Health adopting this policy.

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The Latest on Utah’s Medicaid Waiver

Utahns submitted a record 1,700 comments on Utah’s partial Medicaid expansion. Thanks to all who stood up for voter-approved full Medicaid expansion. Utahns voiced strong opposition to the proposed cuts, caps and barriers to Medicaid coverage which would leave many kids and parents without coverage or care. These comments send a message to state and federal officials and will provide the backbone for any future legal action.

Haven’t submitted a comment yet? There’s still time! Submit a comment here: www.utahchildren.org/comment

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Report: 2019 UTAH STATE OF CHILDREN’S COVERAGE REPORT 100% Kids: Giving All Kids the Opportunity to Thrive

Executive Summary

Health insurance coverage provides children with the foundation they need to be healthy and thrive. When children have health insurance, they have better health outcomes, greater academic success and more economic opportunities later in life.

Utah lags behind the rest of the nation when it comes to covering kids. In Utah, 7% of all children are uninsured, compared to 5% nationally. While Utah has made significant strides over the years connecting more children to coverage, in the last year, Utah’s child uninsured rate has increased. In 2017, Utah was one of only nine states to see its child uninsured rate trend in the wrong direction.

Who are the uninsured children of Utah? They are overwhelmingly low-income. Typically, their parents are uninsured too. The majority are eligible for CHIP or Medicaid insurance, but not enrolled. Some are not eligible for insurance at all because of their citizenship or immigration status. They live across Utah, with a higher percentage of uninsured children living in rural areas. Some children may have never been insured; some may have had insurance and then lost it or had a parent dis-enroll them due to stigma or fear of enrolling in public health insurance programs. They come from all racial and ethnic backgrounds however, a disproportionate percentage of uninsured children in Utah are Latino, the highest in the nation. Some come from families experiencing intergenerational poverty, some are immigrants, refugees or asylum seekers, facing steep obstacles to their health and well-being.

But no matter who they are, they are all Utahns. When 7% of our child population lacks health insurance, we put Utah’s future at risk. Utah is at a unique moment to challenge the negative trends and demand that all children, no matter their background, zip code, citizenship or immigration status, can access affordable health coverage.
The 100% Kids Coverage Campaign is led by a diverse coalition of stakeholders. This multi-year campaign has a goal of ensuring all Utah children will have coverage. Guided by four over-arching policy recommendations, the Campaign proposes to change Utah’s health coverage landscape:

  1. Strengthen and protect Medicaid coverage for parents
  2. Keep kids covered all year round
  3. Support consistent outreach and enrollment support
  4. Cover all kids, regardless of background or immigration status


Through targeted policies, political and community engagement, we can ensure that all Utah kids have the health coverage they need to grow, thrive and succeed in life. We believe that it is possible for 100% of Utah children to have access to affordable, consistent health coverage. We invite you to join us and help us reach 100% together.


The full report can be downloaded below. For a free print copy please call Voices at 801-364-1182

 

 

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