Health Insurance is Important for a Healthy First 1,000 Days

Health insurance is critical to a healthy first 1,000 days. The foundation for lifelong health is set during this window of time, and health insurance helps ensure all moms and babies receive the care they need to thrive. To learn more, check out 1,000 Days’ new briefs on the importance of health insurance during pregnancy, during the postpartum period and for infants and toddlers.

From November 1 to December 15, families can sign up for health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace ( Plans purchased through the marketplace are comprehensive and cover the essentials that moms and babies need for a healthy first 1,000 days. Best of all, financial help is available to reduce the cost of coverage and care through federal premium tax credits and cost-sharing assistance.

Despite the importance of health insurance during the first 1,000 days, too many families lack the coverage they need. In September, the Census Bureau released new data showing that the number of children without health insurance coverage in the United States rose significantly in 2018. According to the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families (CCF), this is the second year in a row that uninsurance rates have risen after having fallen for much of the past decade, pointing to a troubling trend.

The new data show that 4.3 million children under the age of 19 were uninsured in 2018—an increase of 425,000 children from 2017. That means 5.5% of all children did not have health insurance coverage last year. And for infants, toddlers and young children ages 0-5, the uninsured rate rose from 4.5% in 2017 to 5.3% in 2018.

Analysis by Georgetown University CCF indicates that some groups of children are faring worse than others. For example, Hispanic children saw the largest jump in uninsurance compared to other races, with an increase of 1 percentage point from 7.7% to 8.7%. Children in the South are the worst off regionally, with the highest rates of uninsured children at 7.7%.

There are many reasons for the increase in the number of uninsured children, including a decline in public coverage for kids through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Medicaid and CHIP coverage fell by more than 2 percentage points among young children, from 40.2% to 38.0%. Changing eligibility rules for children and parents, confusion around the use of public benefits by legal immigrant families, and diminished outreach efforts contributed to this decline.

At 1,000 Days, we know how important health insurance is for the health of our nation’s moms, babies and families. That’s why we’re so concerned about this uptick in the number of uninsured children—and why we fight to support high-quality and affordable health insurance for everyone.