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Population Growth Bringing Uninsured Children To Affluent Counties

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The population explosion in North Texas’ has brought a growing number of children without health insurance, and some of the counties affected come as a surprise.

Collin and Denton counties rank among the wealthiest in the state with median household incomes above $68,000 a year.

But the annual Beyond ABC report by Children’s Medical Center being released Monday says many of the children moving to those counties are low income, and that has prompted an astronomical increase in the number seeking Medicaid.

Between 2008 and 2011, Medicaid enrollment for children increased 69 percent in Collin County, 76 percent in Denton. “We always think of those northern suburbs as being pretty affluent, but there are also these large pockets of poverty and they are growing because the population is growing,” said the report’s editor Joyce Saenz Harris.

The five counties surveyed include Cooke, Grayson and Fannin Counties in addition to Denton and Collin.

Saenz Harris says each of those counties has twice the national average of uninsured children.

“You’re talking about kids who are growing up without some of the basic things we tend to take for granted for our children: immunizations; eye exams; dental exams; care for things that are common childhood conditions such as asthma.”

The report calls for state lawmakers meeting in January to protect funding for child health and safety programs despite a projected budget shortfall.

It also recommends a mobilization of faith groups and community volunteers to connect low income families with assistance.

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.