Health

More than 16,000 Kentucky children gained health care coverage in the first year of the federal Affordable Care Act, according to a report released Monday.

The analysis shows that the uninsured rate for Kentucky children dropped to 4.3 percent in 2014. In 2013, the uninsured rate for children in Kentucky was 5.9 percent.

The report was released by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and State Health Access Data Assistance Center, a health policy research institute at the University of Minnesota.

The report looked at the two main mechanisms that have had the most impact on Kentucky children under the ACA: financial assistance for families purchasing private insurance and increased enrollment in public coverage.

“Having a usual source of care and having a primary care home, it’s just very important that that’s established early in life and that becomes part of taking care of yourself and your health over time,” said Lynn Blewett, director of the State Health Access Data Assistance Center.

Kentucky had a 90 percent participation rate in Medicaid — the percentage of children enrolled in the program — before the ACA went into effect. But that left 43,000 children eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or K-CHIP, who were not enrolled.

Blewett said with more adults signing up for coverage, more children were enrolled as well.

“For kids to enroll, they have to have their parents to sign up. And so, if the parents don’t sign up, the kids don’t get coverage. So, it really depends on the parents,” she said.

Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said health insurance is necessary for many children to receive quality and accessible health services.

“It’s one of those domino effects, that if we believe health impacts every aspect of a child’s life, then we have to go upstream and figure out how to make sure that they have access to health care,” he said.

Of those who gained coverage through the state health insurance marketplace, Kynect, 10.6 percent — or about 11,000 — were children under the age of 18.

Kentucky’s percentage of children enrolled in health insurance through the state marketplace was better than the national average of state marketplaces (5.7 percent) and plans bought on the federal exchange (8 percent).

In December 2013, child enrollment in Medicaid and K-CHIP was 447,838, according to Georgetown University. In May 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported that 523,448 Kentucky children were enrolled in the program.