Annual Child Wellbeing Survey Shows Fewer Kids Have Health Insurance

Jun 27, 2018

The annual Kids Count survey of child wellbeing shows fewer Maine kids are living in poverty, but rates of child poverty vary widely across the state and by race and ethnicity.

In Piscatiquis County, 30 percent of children live in poverty; in Cumberland county, it's 12 percent. More than half of Maine's african-american and native american children live in poverty -- compared to 17 percent of white children.

Maine Children's Alliance executive director Claire Berkowitz says poverty can impact kids in a variety of ways as they develop.

“All of that stress on a family can create what's called toxic stress, and that impacts brain development, especially in small children, so having economically secure families is an important part of child wellbeing and child development.”

The data also shows the number of Maine kids living without health insurance is now above the national average.

As the national average has gone down, in-part due to federal programs like the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, Maine's rate has increased.

But Maine Children's Alliance Executive Director Claire Berkowitz says more than half of those uninsured children are eligible for coverage under Maine's Medicaid program.

She says, in many cases, parents who aren't insured themselves may not know their kids qualify.

“Even if their children are eligible, they may not get that MaineCare and CHIP that they're eligible for,” Berkowitz says. :So making sure that's clear to families is really important in our state.”

As of 2016, 12,000 or 5 percent of Maine children are uninsured. The national average is 4 percent.

The data also shows that fewer Maine kids are drinking and smoking and graduation rates are up slightly.

Meanwhile, infant mortality rates have increased, along with child and teen suicide.