CHEYENNE - Wyoming is once again at the bottom of the pack for children's health in a Kids Count report released this past week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Among the findings of the report, Wyoming still lags behind the national average for the number of children with health-care coverage and suffers from a relatively large wage disparity between men and women.
However, the state climbed in the overall ranking of "child well-being," rising to 18 from 27 last year.
The annual fact book compiles data from the year 2016 into four categories - education, health, family and community, and economic well-being - and uses those numbers to rank each state in each category and overall.
Wyoming's data is compiled by the nonprofit Wyoming Community Foundation.
"We want (people) to look at the data and determine what's important in (their) community," Micah Richardson, the Wyoming Community Foundation's spokeswoman, said.
This year, Wyoming ranked 49th in children's health, up just one spot from last year.
That's likely because across the state in 2016, 9 percent of children were not covered by health insurance. That's more than double the 4 percent uninsured rate across the country.
Some tie that relatively high number to Wyoming's failure to expand Medicaid under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
Kim Deti, spokeswoman for the Wyoming Department of Health, said that wouldn't affect the rate of children being covered, since children are automatically eligible for federal health-care benefits.
"If we had expanded Medicaid ... that would've expanded the number of adults who were eligible," she said. "That does not affect the child coverage rate."
But a recent study from Health Affairs found Medicaid expansion for adults had a "welcome mat" effect for their children. It estimated that 710,000 low-income children gained coverage through the effects of the ACA and were largest among children whose parents gained eligibility through the ACA.
Richardson said that over time, other states have improved access to health care for children, while Wyoming has remained relatively stagnant in that area.
"It's not like our (numbers) are getting worse, but other places, that's been going down," she said.
That's not the only issue.
The Wyoming study found that in the Cowboy State, women earn just 68 cents to every dollar a man does.
That number carries a wide disparity - in Crook County, women earn just 51 cents to the dollar, while in Hot Springs County, it's 90 cents on the dollar.
Counties such as Albany and Laramie tend to fare better in those areas due to a large portion of government jobs with set wages, Richardson said.
And lower earnings for women can affect families and ultimately children.
"Moms in poverty mean children in poverty," Richardson said. "From our perspective, if women are having a hard time making ends meet, then the entire family is having a hard time making ends meet."
In Wyoming, 13 percent of children lived in poverty in 2016, compared to the 21 percent national average, according to the report.
And the amount of poverty is higher among children who live in single-parent families. In Wyoming in 2016, 32 percent of children in single-parent homes lived in poverty versus 6 percent in two-parent families.
Richardson said the report doesn't aim to find solutions. Instead, it's a reference point for communities to start asking questions.
"We are presenting this data and saying, 'Here you go,'" she said. "Having good, correct information that people can really rely on is so important to making those decisions and making the choices that will improve communities."
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