Ten percent of New Jersey parents — or 175,000 — had zero health insurance in 2015, according to the latest state-by-state KIDS COUNT data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

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That's actually a step up for the Garden State compared to years prior. In both 2010 and 2014, the two previous years for which this data was tracked, 12 percent of New Jersey parents were not covered by any health insurance. In 2010, 226,000 parents were uninsured. In 2014, 212,000 weren't covered.

New Jersey continues to perform better than the national average. Nationwide, 12 percent of parents — or seven million Americans — lacked health insurance in 2015, according to the data.

Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, attributed much of New Jersey's progress to Gov. Chris Christie's 2013 decision to expand Medicaid in the state as part of the Affordable Care Act, opening the system to hundreds of thousands more residents.

Research has shown that when a parent lacks health insurance, their children are more likely to lack it as well, Zalkind noted. The KIDS COUNT data counted parents who live with at least one of their children under 18 years of age.

"I think it's also critical for the family," Zalkind told New Jersey 101.5. "A parent can go into significant debt without health insurance if they have a medical emergency or medical condition, which can impact their ability to support their entire family."

Zalkind said when an adult lacks health insurance and money is tight, "preventive care is usually the first thing to go." Over time, a medical issue can escalate into a true emergency that needs proper attention — attention that won't be cheap.

According to the data, 84,000 New Jersey children younger than 18 were not covered by any health insurance in 2015, compared to 101,000 in 2014.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.