Despite a struggling economy that has unemployment rates rising and private insurance being dropped, numbers of uninsured children continue to decrease in many states. Overall, decreases reached one million children, which were spread out over roughly 34 states.
The largest decrease was seen in Florida, which dropped from 667,758 to 506,934, but it is still one of the states with the largest numbers of uninsured children, even with this large decrease. Nevada is the state with the most uninsured. Minnesota, Kansas and Wisconsin saw increases in their uninsured numbers for various reasons, including companies dropping their insurance programs, or premiums for private health care just being too high. Massachusetts has the lowest number of uninsured, although the census findings don’t tell why that is.
With two state funded programs, Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) parents are more easily able to apply for these programs due to streamlining in application processes that were one of the results of President Obama’s signing an extension for CHIP and giving $87 billion dollars in funding to help states pay for Medicaid programs. With easier application methods, such as applying online, when previously, only in person applying was allowed, parents are finding it easier to apply, and that leads to decreases in the number of children without health insurance.
As positive as Tuesday’s report is, these gains are still fragile and if state and federal support waivers, these gains could very easily slip the other direction. Unfortunately, many state lawmakers cut health programs first when trying to cut budget costs.
An example of this is Arizona, who has 128,000 children on a waiting list for Medicaid when the state froze its program in an attempt to stabilize the budget. They just recently submitted a plan that spans two years that will add another 19,000 children to their current 15,000 but it still leaves way too many uninsured. Despite these circumstances, Arizona was still able to drop from 258,339 to 207,967 over a two year period from 2008 to 2010.
In Wisconsin, state officials are working on a stripped down version of Medicaid, with reduced benefits for 215,000 children who are eligible for Medicaid. While not necessarily the most desirable situation, it is certainly better than not having them insured at all.
With Texas in a budget crisis, there is worry that despite the decrease in their numbers of uninsured, that there could be a revisit of 2003, when over 200,000 children were kicked off of the CHIP due to a budget crisis.
These worries are not without warrant, but there is no way as of yet, to know what will happen. The main thing that is obvious is that regardless of unemployment and state budgets and high private insurance premiums, children need to be insured and that’s not something that will go away. As more states work to improve their numbers, we will hopefully see continued decreases in the number of children who don’t have coverage, and more work from those states that are not up to par when it comes to making sure the children ARE covered.
- Study: Fewer children in US lack health insurance (newsok.com)
- Number of kids with health insurance on rise (msnbc.msn.com)
- Fewer Children In U.S. Lack Health Insurance Despite Rising Poverty: Study (huffingtonpost.com)