While New Jersey has an enviable number of residents with health insurance compared to other states, more than 100,000 Jersey children remain without coverage, according to a new survey.
“The goal for kids is to get that number down to zero, and of course we’re not there yet, but New Jersey is looking a lot better than the nation as a whole,” said Katherine Hempstead, of the Princeton-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which compiled the survey.
Just who are these children?
“Hispanic kids and adults always have higher uninsured rates, and that may be because of the immigration status of the parents. That can make people reluctant to come forward and see what they might be eligible for,” said Hempstead, who analyzes health insurance trends for the foundation. “When parents are not citizens, then their children are less likely to be insured – even if the children are citizens.”
Hispanic families are the least likely to have private health insurance, the kind provided through the workplace, according to the survey. In fact, more Hispanic children are covered by public coverage – some form of Medicaid or other assistance – than are covered through private plans either purchased by the parents or provide through their parents’ job.
Children who were born here are entitled to Medicaid, as are children who are lawfully here, even if they arrived quite recently. By contrast, adults who are not here legally aren’t entitled to Medicaid, and even those adults who came here legally must wait five years before qualifying. That means a family’s children could be eligible for Medicaid coverage and their parents might not be, Hempstead said.
Does being uninsured mean these children don’t get any medical treatment at all? Hempstead said they most likely did get treated at federally qualified health centers, set up to treat anyone who walks in the door, regardless of insurance status. There are also hospital out-patient clinics, as well as public health vaccination clinics where they receive care.
“There probably is some access to medical care for these kids, but it’s not as desirable as having regular access to health care, and establishing a relationship with a caregiver,” she said.
All told, about 4.8 percent of New Jersey kids are uninsured – placing the state in 18th place. First place went to Vermont, where just 1.2 percent of children were uninsured.
The state with the largest percentage of uncovered kids? Alabama, with 12.3 percent. Nationwide, nearly five million children remain without health coverage, the survey found. Roughly half of them live in just six states: Texas (880,000), California (550,000), Florida (410,000), Georgia (210,000), Arizona (180,000), and New York (160,000).