Jesus Bonilla, 6, is examined by pediatrician Gina F. Reinoso at...

Jesus Bonilla, 6, is examined by pediatrician Gina F. Reinoso at the Hempstead Family Health Center of Long Island. Credit: Howard Simmons

New York State children are much more likely to have health insurance and less likely to die young than kids in other states, but high housing costs are impacting their economic well-being, according to a national study released Monday.

The 30th annual “Kids Count” report from the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation also found that preschool is more common for 3- and 4-year-old New Yorkers than children elsewhere, and that teenage pregnancy is less prevalent.

The study by the nonprofit, which focuses on improving the lives of disadvantaged children and their families, uses federal government data to compare states in 16 categories and rank them in four broad measurements of well-being, such as health and education.

New York ranks fifth nationwide in children’s health, largely because only 3 percent of the state’s children lack public or private health insurance, compared with 5 percent nationwide, and because of a child and teenager death rate of 18 per 100,000, compared with 26 per 100,000 nationally.

The low uninsured rate is largely because of broad state child health benefits that include some coverage for children living in the country illegally, said Noah Berger, the foundation’s director of policy, reform and advocacy.

The 2010 Affordable Care Act expanded health insurance coverage nationwide, but states like New York that used federal funding in the law to expand its Medicaid program saw a greater reduction in the uninsured, said Suzanne Brundage, director of the children’s health initiative at United Hospital Fund, a Manhattan-based nonprofit that works to improve health care for New Yorkers.

Even before the ACA was enacted, the state “invested in navigators, trusted community organizations that help people know they’re eligible for insurance and connect them to affordable high-quality insurance,” Brundage said.

Economic and health measures

Comparisons from the Annie E. Casey Foundation for the nation and the state.

ECONOMIC WELL-BEING (NYS ranks 42nd)U.S. in 2010U.S. in 2017NY in 2010NY in 2017
Children in poverty22%18%21%20%
Children whose parents lack secure employment33%27%31%30%
Children in households w/ high housing cost41%31%45%40%
Teens not in school and not working9%7%8%6%
HEALTH (NYS ranks 5th)U.S. in 2010U.S. in 2017NY in 2010NY in 2017
Low birth-weight babies8.1%8.3%8.2%8.1%
Children without health insurance8%5%5%3%
Child and teen deaths per 100,00026262118
Teens who abuse alcohol or drugs *5%4%4%4%
* Time periods for this measure were 2015-16 and 2016-17.

In the long run, greater access to preventive care not only leads to healthier kids, said David Nemiroff, president and CEO of Long Island FQHC Inc., a nonprofit that oversees 10 health centers in Nassau County that serve many low-income residents. It also saves money, because it prevents expensive emergency-room visits and hospitalizations, he said.

The state’s worst score was in economic well-being, in which New York ranked 42nd. Twenty percent of the state’s children live in poverty, compared with 18 percent nationwide. The biggest gap between New York and the nation was in “children living in households with a high housing cost burden” — 40 percent of New York children compared with 31 percent nationwide.

When families spend an especially high percentage of income on housing, that means they have less to spend on food, clothing and other necessities, Berger said.

Oftentimes, that also means they can’t afford licensed child care, which typically costs about $13,000 to $14,000 a year for 3-year-olds, said Jennifer Rojas, executive director of the Child Care Council of Suffolk.

“What most people do is they use unregulated care, so that means the lady down the block or a neighbor or a relative, or they cobble together a bunch of things,” she said. “While some of that may work and some of that may be very reliable and good, we always worry because it’s not regulated at all. So we don’t know the quality.”

The state ranked 17th in education, with the high score driven largely by how 42 percent of New York kids ages 3 and 4 are not in school, compared with 52 percent nationwide.

In New York City and Rochester, all 4-year-olds are eligible for all-day prekindergarten, said Jasmine Gripper, legislative director for the Albany-based Alliance for Quality Education, an advocacy group.

In addition, the state has for years provided funding for school districts statewide for half-day pre-K programs, she said.

Preschool is vital because “what all of the research shows is early intervention is the best and cheapest way to close the achievement gap,” she said.

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