Although Rhode Island continues to lag in child poverty, ranked 26th in the country, the state is making great strides in the percentage of children covered with health insurance.
According to the U.S. Census Bureaus’ 2014 American Community Survey (ACS), 96.7 percent of Rhode Island’s children had health insurance in 2014, ranking the state seventh best in the nation.
Executive Director of KIDS COUNT Elizabeth Burke Bryant, in a phone interview Monday morning, said the state had had a “policy focus” on healthcare and the ACS numbers are a result of prioritizing children’s health.
Providing children with health insurance is an important step in keeping them healthy in school and helping parents lift families out of poverty.
Those children with insurance are hospitalized less and also miss fewer days of school due to illness or chronic conditions.
Only 3.3 percent, or 7,107, children were uninsured on 2014, which is almost half of the national average of 6 percent.
With such a small percentage of children uninsured, Burke Bryant believes its very “doable” to close the gap.
“Those kids that are uninsured are more likely than not eligible for RIte Care,” she said. “Now it is just a matter of spreading the word so those children get the health care they need.”
In 2013 Rhode Island was ranked 16th across the country the increase comes in part from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which was completely implemented in 2014.
Although 52.2 percent of children received coverage from their parents employer sponsored health plan, Medicaid/RIte Care covered 34 percent of the state’s children. RIte Care was federally ranked best in the country for quality of care.
“The good news is that this is a major step forward in ensuring the welfare of the state’s children,” Burke Bryant said, but in seeing little to no change in the childhood poverty rate in 2014, there is still “a long way to go.”
The ACS found that 19.8 percent of Rhode Island children lived in poverty in 2014, ranking the state 26th in the nation, just below the national average of 21.7 percent.
With nearly one in five Rhode Island children living in poverty Burke Bryant believes we need to focus not just on initiatives for children but their parents as well. She said that there are many parents unprepared for the 21st century workforce and programs need to be available for such individuals to increase their education and training to be employable for high wage jobs that could lift their families out of poverty.
Similarly, children’s education must be held to the highest standard, despite which communities they may come from because they will eventually become “the next wave of parents and heads of households.”
In the meantime the state should also focus on affordable housing and childcare, providing families assistance to avoid the worst effects of poverty on children.
“The good news is that we have a successful track record we made positive progress with healthcare that we can build on when we are looking forward,” Burke Bryant said.
For more information visit www.rikidscount.org.