The number of uninsured children in Alabama has been on the rise in recent years, according to a report released Wednesday by Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families.
Nationally, the report showed the number of uninsured children increased by more than 400,000 between 2016 and 2018, reversing a long-standing positive trend. More than 4 million children nationwide were uninsured in 2018.
15 states, including Alabama, were found to have statistically significant increases in the number and/or rate of uninsured children since 2016.
At 3.5 percent, the state’s uninsured rate for children remained one of the best in the South and was far below the national average of 5.2 percent in 2018. However, after years of improvement, Alabama’s number of uninsured children increased from 32,000 in 2016 to 41,000 in 2018.
The report shows that 3 percent of children under the age of six are uninsured, with 3.7 percent of children ages 6 to 18 lacking health coverage.
Racial disparities were also found among uninsured children in Alabama. Hispanics in Alabama had the highest rate of uninsured children at 8.8 percent, Asian/ Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander populations showed a 5.8 percent of uninsured children and 3.6 percent of African American children were found to be uninsured. White (2.9 percent) and American Indian (1.1 percent) populations in Alabama were shown to have the lowest amount of uninsured children.
46 percent of children who are insured were shown get their coverage through Medicaid or The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). 95 percent of uninsured children eligible children were found to participate in Medicaid or CHIP. Many children who are eligible for these programs may not be enrolled due to a lack of public outreach or administrative barriers, according to the report.
Alabama Arise policy director Jim Carnes said in a statement that the increase in uninsured children is a warning sign that Alabama could continue this trend if policymakers do not protect and expand Medicaid.
“Children’s health coverage has long been a point of pride for Alabama, and we can’t afford to backslide,” Carnes said. “ALL Kids and Medicaid have played huge roles in that success. And our state should build on those gains by expanding Medicaid to cover adults with low incomes as well. Medicaid expansion would boost financial security for struggling parents and increase the odds that their children get and stay insured. It would be good for children, good for families and good for Alabama.”
States that have not expanded Medicaid to parents and other adults under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) were found to have increases in their rate of uninsured children three times as large as states that have expanded Medicaid. Children in non-expansion states were shown to be nearly twice as likely to be uninsured as those in states that have expanded Medicaid.
Though only 39 percent of the nation’s children live in southern states, the report showed that 53 percent of the nation’s uninsured children live in the South.
Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program gets more national attention
The article analyzed a recent study that found that students who attended the program were “statistically significantly more likely” to be proficient in both math and reading than those who did not.
The state’s First Class Pre-K program gives children advantages in math and reading that last into middle school, far longer than the gains studied in other high-quality pre-K programs, according to an article published in the International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy.
While programs like Head Start and Tennessee’s pre-K program have been shown to lead to significant educational improvements when children enter kindergarten, those benefits appear to experience a “fadeout” within a year.
The new research followed students through the 7th grade. Further research should examine the persistence of benefits through high school, according to the article, which was published by researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, ThinkData and the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education.
The research “is reassuring and supports accountability for continued investments and expansion,” the article concluded.
The journal that featured the article is a publication of the National Institute of Early Education Research at Rutgers University.
U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne announces new chief of staff
Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, on Friday announced that Seth Morrow will serve as his chief of staff.
“As we enter the last half of 2020, my office remains busy assisting constituents and advancing our legislative priorities. I know Seth shares my focus on finishing out my term in Congress strong, and he is well prepared to move into the Chief of Staff role,” Byrne said in a statement. “My staff and I will continue working hard every day to fight for the people of Southwest Alabama and advance our conservative agenda.”
Morrow is a native of Guntersville and has worked for Byrne since June 2014, serving as deputy chief of staff and communications director.
“I am grateful for this opportunity, and I’m committed to ensuring our office maintains our first class service to the people of Southwest Alabama. Congressman Byrne has always had the hardest working team on Capitol Hill, and I know we will keep that tradition going,” Morrow said in a statement.
Morrow replaces Chad Carlough, who has held the position of Byrne’s chief of staff since March 2017.
“Chad has very ably led our Congressional team over the last few years, and I join the people of Southwest Alabama in thanking him for his dedicated service to our state and our country,” Byrne said.
Alabama Department of Corrections investigating inmate death
Robert Earl Adams, 40, died on Aug. 5 and although no foul play is suspected, a department spokeswoman in a message to APR said the exact cause of death is pending an autopsy.
The Alabama Department of Corrections is investigating the death of an inmate at the Donaldson Correctional Facility.
“While Adams’ exact cause of death is pending the results of a full autopsy, at the time of his passing inmate Adams was not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, was not under quarantine following direct exposure to an inmate or staff member who previously had tested positive, and was not in medical isolation as a result of a positive COVID-19 test,” said ADOC spokeswoman Samantha Rose in the message.
Because Adams was not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, he had not been tested, Rose said.
An ADOC worker who contacted APR Friday morning about the death, who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions from ADOC administrators, said it’s suspected that Adams may have overdosed after being given a cigarette laced with a drug.
Adams is at least the sixteenth state inmate to die this year from either homicide, suspected drug overdose or suicide. Additionally, fifteen inmates and two prison workers have died after testing positive for COVID-19.
Alabama GOP chair: “We expect our elected officials to follow the law” after Dismukes arrest
“Will Dismukes matter: We expect our elected officials, regardless of Party, to follow the laws of our state and nation,” Alabama GOP chair Terry Lathan said on Twitter.
Alabama Republican Party Chair Terry Lathan said Thursday that Alabamians expect their leaders to follow the law. Her comments came in response to news that an arrest warrant had been issued for State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, on the charge of felony theft.
“Will Dismukes matter: We expect our elected officials, regardless of Party, to follow the laws of our state and nation,” Lathan said on Twitter. “No one is immune to these standards. It is very disappointing to hear of these allegations. This is now a legal matter and it must run its course.”
Will Dismukes matter:
We expect our elected officials, regardless of Party, to follow the laws of our state and nation. No one is immune to these standards. It is very disappointing to hear of these allegations.This is now a legal matter and it must run its course. #alpolitics
— Terry Lathan (@ChairmanLathan) August 6, 2020
Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, said Friday in a statement that Dismukes will get his day in court.
“As a former law enforcement officer, I have faith in the criminal justice process and trust that he will receive a full and fair hearing,” McCutcheon said. “Both Democrats and Republicans have been accused of similar crimes in the past, and we cannot tolerate such behavior whether the lawmaker involved has a D or an R beside their name.”
Dismukes has been charged by his former employer, a custom flooring company, of felony theft charges. Dismukes left that employer and started his own custom flooring company.
Dismukes, who is serving in his first term and is one of the youngest members of the Alabama Legislature, has been heavily criticized for his participation in a birthday party for Confederate Lt. General Nathan Bedford Forrest in Selma. Forrest was also the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
The party in Selma occurred the same week that Congressman John Lewis’s funeral events were happening in Selma. Dismukes resigned his position at Valley Baptist Church when the Southern Baptists threatened to disassociate the Prattville Church if they retained Dismukes. He has defiantly refused to step down from the Legislature, but if convicted of a felony, he would be automatically removed from office.
Both Democrats and Republicans have called for Dismukes to resign from the Alabama House of Representatives over his being the chaplain of the Prattville Sons of Confederate Veterans and his Facebook post lauding Forrest. The investigation into the theft predates the controversies surrounding Dismukes’s glorification of the Confederacy and Forrest.
Republican State Sen. Clyde Chambliss, who also represents Prattville, has called on Dismukes to resign.
“Since first being elected in 1996, I’ve had a policy of not publicly criticizing other elected officials, but at this time I am making an exception since Rep. Dismukes is MY state representative. He does not represent my views or the views of the vast majority of people of District 88,” Chambliss said. “The post is bad enough, the timing is even worse, but the real problem is that an elected official in 2020 would attend a celebration of the life of someone that led a group that terrorized and killed other human beings. He has had 24 hours to understand why people are so upset, but his interview on WSFA a few moments ago confirms that he is lacking in understanding and judgment — he should resign immediately.”
Alabama Democratic Party Chairman State Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, has repeatedly called for Dismukes to resign from the Alabama House of Representatives.
The Alabama Democratic Party recently said in a statement, “Will Dismukes is morally unfit for office. Republicans and Democrats statewide seem to agree. Unfortunately, despite the mounting calls for his immediate resignation, Will intends to stay in office and seek re-election without penalty from the Republican Party.”
“While Alabama Republicans hope this will be a distant memory when Dismukes runs for re-election in 2022, we are not going to let him off the hook,” the ADP wrote. “The Alabama Democratic Party is going to leverage every tool we have to send Will packing when he comes up for re-election in two years.”
“In our darkest hours in life there is still light in Christ!” Dismukes wrote on social media Wednesday. “As the storm continues to blow with heavy force, there is yet a peace that this too shall pass. I guess sometimes we find out if we have built our house on sand or the solid rock of Christ. Psalm 23.”
When Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, was indicted on 21 charges of felony ethics violations, he did not resign and actually remained speaker until a jury of his peers in Lee County convicted him on 12 counts.