This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The number of uninsured Utah children dropped to 65,000 in 2015, but the state still ranks poorly compared with others across the country, according to a recent report.
That's partly because Utah hasn't expanded Medicaid as other states have, said Jessie Mandle, health policy analyst for Voices for Utah Children.
"We're consistent with the national decline [of uninsured children], but we still haven't taken important steps," Mandle said. "That leaves us with a high rate of uninsured."
In 2015, 7.2 percent of Utah kids or 65,000 were uninsured, down from 9.5 percent or 85,000 in 2013, according to a recent report from Georgetown University's Center for Children and Families.
But Utah is lagging behind the 2015 national uninsured kids rate of 4.8 percent, which itself is down from 7.1 percent in 2013 since several provisions of the Affordable Care Act took effect, the report states. That leaves Utah ranked 35th in the country for uninsured children, down from a 2013 ranking of 31.
The ACA, also known as Obamacare, created online insurance marketplaces that allow consumers to find the best plan to fit their needs by comparing prices and networks.
They also can qualify for federal tax credits that reduce the overall cost of coverage. Open enrollment for 2017 began Tuesday.
"The new data demonstrate that the Affordable Care Act is working for Utah families," said April Young Bennett, Voices for Utah Children spokeswoman. "But it would work even better if Utah expanded Medicaid. As other states have expanded Medicaid to more low-income parents, they have seen improved enrollment of children as well."
It's too early to tell if that will result in more insured Utah children when the state's small-scale Medicaid expansion is rolled out, Mandle said, adding that "any enrollment increase for parents is a good thing" for kids.
The Legislature this year passed a small-scale plan after years of debate about Medicaid expansion. Initially estimated to expand coverage to about 16,000 people, the current proposal would cover about 9,000 to 11,000 of the poorest Utahns.
The plan expands coverage to low-income parents with dependent children previously not covered by Medicaid, as well as childless adults who are chronically homeless, involved in the justice system or in need of mental-health and substance-abuse treatment.
The state Department of Health submitted its plan this summer to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for approval, initially hoping to begin enrolling individuals by Jan. 1, 2017.
Officials, however, have since said it's unlikely they will hit that target.
email@example.com Twitter: @alexdstuckey