Opinion column by Executive Director Jessica Dunbar as featured in the Colorado Sun. Read the column here.
The New York Times recently published a piece showing that there are a million fewer children with Medicaid in the United States.
This is part of a disturbing trend we’ve been seeing for over a year in our medical offices here in Colorado- immigrant families dropping Medicaid coverage for their children, who are U.S. citizens, and foregoing health care because of fear of federal immigration policies.
Every Child Pediatrics is a nonprofit pediatric primary care practice serving close to 24,000 children at 16 medical offices. Most of our patients are low-income and from ethnically and racially diverse backgrounds. We serve a large number of immigrant and refugee families, particularly at our school-based health centers. We care for them because they’re children who need to see a doctor, and we took an oath to help them.
Between 2017 and 2018, the number of uninsured patients seen at our medical offices increased 88%, while the number of children with Medicaid, known as Health First Colorado, remained flat. In 2019, the number of uninsured patients coming to our offices continued to rise, while the number of children with Medicaid dropped. More children are losing health coverage, and fewer children are seeing a doctor regularly for check-ups, treatment or medicine when they’re sick.
Statewide, there are nearly 10,000 more uninsured children today than in 2017 and the uninsured rate among Hispanic children tripled, according to the Colorado Health Access Survey. The health equity gap in Colorado is widening and we’re losing ground on providing vital health coverage to children and families already facing the greatest disadvantages.
Hispanic and immigrant children are experiencing high levels of stress and hardship. Our staff see newly arrived immigrants, including young children separated from their parents who suffer from anxiety and depression. We offer these children bilingual behavioral health counselors, connect them to support services they need and take extra steps, including through signage, to show them our offices are safe. We also participate in coalitions that advocate for compassionate, immigrant-friendly policies.
Our mission is to provide care for any child who needs it, including children eligible for Medicaid and children who don’t have health insurance at all.
Now is the time for all of us to do more to help children get the health care and services they need. We have the ability and the resources, we just need the will to do it.