Crossing the Finish Line 2009: How Arkansas Can Cover All Children

Children with health insurance are more likely to receive the health care they need to become healthy, educated and productive citizens. Health insurance not only impacts children’s health, it impacts the economic stability of families. More and more, health insurance is out of reach for many working families, threatening their ability to make ends meet.

Arkansas has been a national leader in reducing the rolls of uninsured children. With the creation of ARKids First in 1997, our state cut the rate of uninsured children from 21 percent in 1997 to 9 percent today. This report looks at trends in uninsured children since the creation of ARKids First. Among the more notable findings:

  • In 2005, the percentage of low-income, uninsured children in Arkansas began to increase for the first time since 1998, or shortly after ARKids First was created.
  • Many eligible children aren’t signing up for ARKids First, due to staffing limitations at the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) and a decreased emphasis on outreach for ARKids First enrollment and renewals.
  • Increasing numbers of uninsured children live in middle-income families with incomes just above the cusp for ARKids First but too low for private health insurance.

With a modest investment, Arkansas can take several steps that will help us cross the finish line and ensure that all children have health insurance. The Arkansas Finish Line Coalition, a growing group of medical professionals, child-serving organizations and advocates, advances a three-part plan to reach the goal of covering all children in Arkansas.

  • Enroll children who already qualify for ARKids First but aren’t signed up.
  • Extend health insurance to 12,000 more Arkansas children by raising the family income limit from 200 percent of the federal poverty level to 300 percent.
  • Expand options for additional families who can’t afford private insurance by creating a way to buy coverage through ARKids First.