50 State Report: Let’s keep fighting for children’s coverage
Following years of decline, uninsurance rate for children are holding steady, according to a report that Georgetown Center for Children and Families released today. Their annual 50-state report provides a detailed picture of kids’ coverage at the state and national levels. In past five years, uninsurance rates among kids has dropped dramatically, resulting in only about 7 percent of children nationally remaining uninsured, largely thanks to the success of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). In 2013, however, we did not see significant coverage gains for children; children’s uninsured rates held steady even as uninsured rates for many other populations decreased.
In particular, New England, a region that has historically excelled at insuring kids and keeping them covered, fared less well this year. Three of the six New England states (Connecticut, Maine and Rhode Island) even saw an increase in the rate of uninsured children.
The plateauing of insurance rates for kids nationally highlights the importance of protecting and promoting children’s coverage, especially at this crucial juncture for CHIP. According to the report, kids in families between 100 percent and 199 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL)—that’s $19,790 to $38,865 per year for a family of three—were the most likely to be uninsured. This income range represents many families served by CHIP. Funding is set to run out for the program in September 2015, and if Congress doesn’t act, an estimated 2 million children nationwide will become uninsured. Even for the kids who find other coverage options, recent research shows that these options would likely be less affordable and less geared to children’s needs than CHIP. At a time when insurance rates are holding steady, we don’t want to lose ground for children’s coverage, either in terms of quantity of kids covered or the quality of their coverage.
The 50-state report also has implications beyond CHIP. The fact that an overwhelming number of states haven’t seen improvements in children’s coverage highlights the importance of outreach and enrollment efforts focused on kids, both to maintain their high insurance rates and to get every kid covered. These efforts to identify and enroll eligible kids and families, from in-person consumer assistance to raising parents’ awareness about coverage options, sustain children’s coverage at current levels and will continue to be vital as we enter Open Enrollment in mid-November.
This report not only shows us the gains in children’s coverage that we have achieved in the past five years, but also acts as a reminder not to take children’s coverage for granted. We have made significant gains for our children, and we must redouble our efforts to protect those gains and to continue enrolling more kids in coverage.