One In Nine US Children Uninsured In 2007
More than 11% of children nationwide, or about one in nine, had no health coverage in 2007, according to a new Families USA analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, the Boston Globe reports. The number of U.S. children without health insurance dropped by 6% last year, likely the result of more children becoming eligible for government-sponsored coverage because their family's income declined, according to the report. More than 500,000 children gained insurance between 2006 and 2007, while about the same number were in families whose income declined to below the federal poverty level (Wangsness, Boston Globe, 11/26).
The report found that Texas, at 79.5%, had the lowest rate of children with health coverage, followed by California, Florida, New York and Georgia. Washington, D.C., had the highest rate of children with health coverage, at 93%, followed by Vermont (Eyre, Charleston Gazette, 11/26). The report also found that 88.2% of children without insurance come from families with at least one parent working, and more than half live in two-parent homes.
Families USA in the study wrote that the statistics bolster the case for expanding SCHIP. The report showed that Massachusetts -- which in 2006 passed a law requiring that all state residents be insured -- had the lowest rate of uninsured children between 2005 and 2007, at 4.6%, compared with a national median of 9.2% during that period. Although children in Massachusetts are exempt from the mandatory insurance regulation, SCHIP eligibility guidelines were increased, according to the Globe. David Lemmon, communications director for Families USA, said that Massachusetts is "obviously doing something right" (Boston Globe, 11/26).
According to Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, SCHIP expansion legislation vetoed last year by President Bush "would have provided much-needed relief to uninsured children across the nation," (Layton, Bergen Record, 11/26). Pollack added that Congress should pass a proposed economic stimulus package that includes additional money for state Medicaid programs because states "need to expand health coverage at a time when their budgets are increasingly precarious, so increased federal help is essential" (Charleston Gazette, 11/26). In addition, Pollack said Congress should reauthorize SCHIP, which is scheduled to expire on March 31, 2009 (Bergen Record, 11/26).
Meeting With Obama's Team
The expected rise in the number of uninsured children caused by the economic downturn could prompt President-elect Barack Obama's administration to significantly expand SCHIP in January 2009, Families USA officials said at a press conference on Tuesday. Pollack, speaking at the press briefing, said the group will meet with members of Obama's transition team next week to discuss its report. Pollack said, "I think it is safe to say we are going to see a significant increase in uninsured children."
An SCHIP expansion -- a high priority for Obama, according to Pollack -- would "help children who are currently uninsured get coverage or retain coverage" and "would also stimulate the economy." He added that while Obama likely will approve such an expansion, questions remain regarding whether the expansion will cover undocumented immigrants and whether income eligibility rates will be increased (Scholtes, CQ HealthBeat, 11/25).
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