In the wake of an electoral change in Congress that looks set to attack health care reform nationally, the nonpartisan nonprofit group Children First for Oregon's annual status report shows tentative gains in the number of kids with insurance.
The report, released Wednesday morning, shows that the number of children in poverty is inching up even as the number of kids with health insurance dropped by almost two and a half percent.
The report was funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Children First Executive Director Robin Christian says Healthy Kids, Oregon's public health care plan for children, is a major tool for improving the health of poor kids — within what the organization is describing as a "grim outlook" for youth in the state.
The 2010 Children First status report found the kids' poverty rate is up from 17.5 percent to 18.7 percent, but the number of kids with health insurance increased to 13 from 10.6 percent.
'When children have consistent health care, common childhood illnesses don't turn into chronic health problems and kids don't need costly emergency room care," the report says.
The report also found that In, the number of children who spent at least one day in foster care last year decreased from 15,060 to 13,291; the percent of parents with children in foster care who need alcohol or drug treatment, but are still unable to access those services was cut in half, from 22 percent to 11 percent.
"With substance abuse being one of the top factors identified when children enter foster care, more availability of services means less children entering foster care," the report said.
The Children First report highlighted ongoing problems in affordable childcare, with 30.7 percent of households spending more than 10 percent of their income on child care.
Healthy Kids already passed in the last legislative session, insuring an initial 80,000 kids access to health insurance.
"Actually the numbers should drop even more because when the numbers were done we hadn't fully enrolled the entire 80,000 children," said Children First for Oregon spokesperson Regan Gray.
"So that should keep things getting better, and it doesn't really have an impact based on the election, the money is dedicated funding.
Gray said another area of concern, in light of the shift toward more conservative control in the state, is school-based health centers.
"Because of the budget cuts that are going to be upcoming, we're looking at as much as a 25 percent reduction in most service areas," Gray said. "From what we've been hearing from school-based health centers is many of them will actually have to close their doors.
"That means less access to health care for kids whether they're insured or not."
She said Oregon children should be relatively protected from the expected attack on health care reform by incoming U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner, because the state Healthy Kids initiative is not funded by the federal government.
"The concern there is we know that when parents aren't insured, and parents don't visit a doctor's office, children are less likely to visit a doctor's office. So making sure the entire family is healthy and insured is crucial for children's health care."
For more information go to www.kidscount.org
-- From staff reports