New campaign seeks to extend health insurance to all Utah children

Politics

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah- (ABC4 News) – According to a new report, tens of thousands of children are going without healthcare coverage in our state.

That means we have one of the highest uninsured rates in the country.

Local organizations are teaming up in an effort to change that.

The 2019 Utah State of Children’s Coverage report is out and it shows need for improvement.

More than 71,000 children in Utah don’t have health insurance.

Advocates say it can put families in a hole that’s nearly impossible to dig out of.

“Medical debt and burden for families, you know, insurance has ripple effects throughout, not just the child’s life, but for the family,” said Jessie Mandle with Voices for Utah Children.

She says the benefits of getting kids covered go beyond the family.

“If we can make sure that kids are getting the coverage they need early on, and getting preventative care, then we will see an overall win for the state because we’ll see costs go down in term of uncompensated care,” said Mandle.

Voices for Utah Children and more than 20 other community partners are joining forces for the 100% Kids Coverage in Utah campaign.

“Supporting and covering kids regardless of immigration status because when we say we want to cover all kids, we mean all kids here in Utah,” said Ciriac Alvarez with Voices for Utah Children.

It’s an ambitious goal, but they are determined to make it happen.

They say the majority of those without coverage already qualify and there are two major obstacles standing in the way.

One, they just don’t know it, so part of the campaign will include education and outreach.

The second is fear within mixed-status families. Undocumented parents may have children who are eligible but are afraid of what applying may mean to them.

“It’s our mission to ensure that people know that the Utah Department of Health does not share information with ICE, and they are not going to turn that into them,” said Yehemy Zavala with Communities United.

It will require policy change for undocumented children to be eligible for Medicaid or CHIP, so advocates know it could take years to reach their goal.

In the meantime, they want families to know charity options are available.

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Glen Mills

Chief Political Correspondent

 Glen is honored to be delivering the news of the day every weeknight at 5, 6, and 10 in his home state. He is an award-winning veteran journalist, who joined the ABC4 News team as a weekend anchor in June 2013. Over the years, he held various positions at the station as he worked his way up to the main anchor chair. He also serves as our Senior Political Correspondent and hosts Inside Utah Politics, which airs every Sunday. The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has recognized Glen as the best government and military television reporter in the state. Before returning home to Utah, he spent 11 1/2 years developing his journalism skills in other states. He held various on-air and management positions at KPVI in Pocatello, Idaho, WGBA in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and KKCO in Grand Junction, Colorado during that time. Read More...