Number of Uninsured Illinois Children Sharply Increases

More than 100,000 children in Illinois were uninsured in 2018, according to a new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Family.

Public Charge Rule, ACA Sabotage, State-Level Medicaid Backlogs Likely Causes

Contact: Ishena Robinson
(P) 312-549-9879

CHICAGO—More than 100,000 children in Illinois were uninsured in 2018, representing an alarming 24 percent increase since 2016 in children without health coverage, according to a new report released by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. Nationwide, more than 4 million children were uninsured in 2018, the highest level since the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) major coverage expansions first took effect in 2014. The children who comprise the highest proportion of uninsured are from low-income families of color.

Enrollment in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in Illinois has also declined at twice the rate in the U.S. overall.

“These numbers are especially alarming, given that our state provides coverage to all children from low-income families without regard to immigration status. The federal government’s public charge rule proposal undoubtedly had a chilling effect on immigrant families enrolling their children in programs they are eligible for,” said Stephanie Altman, Director of Healthcare Justice & Senior Director of Policy at the Shriver Center for Poverty Law. “This is why we are challenging the rule in court and recently secured a preliminary injunction blocking it from taking effect in Illinois; unfortunately, the chilling effect continues.”

Illinois’ backlog in processing Medicaid applications and the bureaucratic challenges that families have renewing their children’s coverage each year also likely contributed to this significant drop in coverage for children in our state. As the open enrollment period for the ACA commences this Friday, the Shriver Center urges state leadership to prioritize informing families in Illinois about their rights to coverage and the importance of getting insured, as well as addressing the administrative issues that continue to threaten access for children in our state.

Nationwide, the report finds the following factors have contributed to the erosion in children’s health coverage: efforts to repeal the ACA and cut Medicaid; delays in funding the CHIP; elimination of the individual mandate penalty; cuts to enrollment outreach and advertising; inadequate oversight over state Medicaid programs that have created more red tape barriers; and the creation of a climate of fear and confusion for immigrant families that discourages them from enrolling eligible children in Medicaid or CHIP.

“Recent policy changes and the failure to make children’s health a priority have undercut bipartisan initiatives and the Affordable Care Act, which had propelled our nation forward on children’s health coverage,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families and a research professor at the McCourt School of Public Policy. “This serious erosion of child health coverage is due in large part to the Trump Administration’s actions or inactions that have made health coverage harder to access and have deterred families from enrolling their eligible children in Medicaid and CHIP.”

The child uninsured rate increased nationally from 4.7 percent to 5.2 percent between 2016 and 2018, according to data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Coverage losses were widespread, with Illinois one of 15 states showing statistically significant increases in the number and/or rate of uninsured children (Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and West Virginia).


The Shriver Center on Poverty Law fights for economic and racial justice. Over our 50-year history, we have secured hundreds of victories with and for people living in poverty in Illinois and across the country. Today, we litigate, shape policy, and train and convene multi-state networks of lawyers, community leaders, and activists nationwide. Together, we are building a future where all people have equal dignity, respect, and power under the law. Join the fight at

The Georgetown University Center for Children and Families is an independent, nonpartisan policy and research center founded in 2005 with a mission to expand and improve high-quality, affordable coverage for America’s children and families. CCF is based at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

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Healthcare is a human right. The high cost of care means millions of families have no access to the critical care all human beings deserve.

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