The following was published by the Public News Service on June 13, 2017.
Oregon has work to do to improve its support of children, a new report finds.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual KIDS COUNT Data Book assesses states on key indicators of how children and families are faring, and this year ranks Oregon 31st overall.
Results were mixed among the different indicators. Oregon ranks 40th in education but has made strides in health, up to 21st this year.
Tonia Hunt, executive director of Children First for Oregon, says Oregon made health coverage a priority several years ago.
“And we’ve seen how that’s benefited our kids, not only in terms of their access to coverage but also their health outcomes, and the results we’re seeing from that are going to improve a whole generation,” she says. “We need to do the same in other areas of child well-being.”
The state has steadily chipped away at the rate of uninsured children. According to the report, only four percent of Oregon children are uninsured. Expansion of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Premium under the Affordable Care Act, as well as the Oregon Health Plan, have been key to health improvements.
The number of children with health coverage has increased across the nation as well.
The Casey Foundation’s Laura Speer, associate director for Policy Reform and Advocacy, says 95 percent of U.S. children have insurance and that this is a tremendous achievement that should not be jeopardized.
“This is a real success story, and we want to acknowledge the fact that the country has made a significant investment and that we have the highest percent of kids with health insurance coverage that we’ve ever had as a country – and we want to keep those gains,” Speer adds.
Still, Oregon ranks third-worst for high schoolers graduating on time. Hunt says if the state is serious about improving, it needs to put its money where its mouth is.
“Oregon has never strived to be below the median in how we live, in how we take care of each other, and certainly not in how we care of our children,” Hunt adds. “So, if that’s true, then I think we want to be paying attention to these reports and we want to be thinking about how we can collectively make some decisions that improve these numbers.”