The numbers speak for themselves.
According to a 2017 estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly one child out of every 10 does not have health insurance.
That isnâ€™t the data for some faraway place, nor is it a statewide average that belies a much rosier situation for youngsters in our community. Thatâ€™s the sobering reality right here in Summit County, one of the wealthiest places in the country. Itâ€™s actually worse than many other places in Utah, where nearly 70,000 children across the state, or about 7 percent, are estimated to lack coverage.
Itâ€™s a heartbreaking problem and one that, perhaps unsurprisingly, disproportionately affects Latino children. No child deserves to go without health care. Full stop. Details like ethnicity, how much money their parents make and immigration status should be irrelevant.
Fortunately, there are advocates stepping up to do something about it. Voices for Utah Children, a nonpartisan nonprofit based out of Salt Lake City, has begun a campaign to reverse the trend. The effort, appropriately dubbed 100% Kids Coverage, has already earned the backing of a number of partners, including organizations with Park City ties like the Peopleâ€™s Health Clinic and Holy Cross Ministries. It could also use the full-throated support of Summit County residents.
One effective way to help is contacting the folks who have the most power to solve the problem: state legislators. Utah lawmakers can begin by righting a significant wrong. The push to get more children covered took a serious step in the wrong direction this winter when the Legislature gutted the Medicaid expansion voters approved in 2018, making up to 80,000 adults who would have otherwise qualified for coverage ineligible. Lawmakers also tacked on harmful work requirements that will further drive down the rate of insured adults.
Thatâ€™s significant because, while the vast majority of low-income children can access coverage through Medicaid or the Childrenâ€™s Health Insurance Program, research indicates youth are less likely to have health care if their parents arenâ€™t covered.
Additionally, we should demand legislators create a state program to insure children living in the country without legal documentation and that they increase funding for outreach efforts so every parent is informed about the resources available for their children. The educational component is particularly critical to combat a fear among the immigrant community that utilizing programs like Medicaid and CHIP may make them vulnerable to negative repercussions.
Many Summit County residents have never had to worry about being unable to take their children to the doctor to treat a nasty cough, or simply to complete a regular check-up. It can be easy to take health coverage for granted. Too many of our neighbors, though, face a much different reality.
Take a stand for them and their children and join the voices calling for progress.