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HHS Urges Children's Medicaid, CHIP Coverage

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, September 8, 2010

Recently released data from the Census Bureau shows that the number of uninsured children in the U.S. decreased from 8.1 million in 2007 to 7.3 million in 2008—the lowest since 1987. But efforts still need to be used to reach as many as 65% of  (about 4.7 million) of those uninsured children who are eligible for coverage through Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), said participants at a Department of Health and Human Services briefing on enrolling children in the programs.

Among uninsured children, 39% are concentrated in "a relatively small number of populous states"—California, Texas, and Florida, said Genevieve Kenney, a senior health fellow at the Urban Institute and co-author of the report on Medicaid and CHIP that appears on Health Affairs online. A total of 61% of those uninsured children (2.9 million) are concentrated in 10 states.

Overall, in 2008, the national participation rate in either Medicaid or CHIP was 82%, said Kenney. "This level of participation is high relative to what's typically found in other means-tested government programs—which is probably due to the many efforts that states...have made over the last decade to improve enrollment and retention in both Medicaid and CHIP."

"The share of children without health insurance in America is lower than it's ever been before, and that's very good news—that children don't bear the brunt of this economic downturn," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at the briefing. "But our work has only begun."

But despite advances that states have made, millions of uninsured children remain who qualify for coverage but are not enrolled. "I'm challenging everyone, from my state and federal counterparts, to local governments and community-based organizations, to health centers and school districts, to faith-based groups and Indian tribes, to take this conversation about children?s coverage to the next level—to find and enroll those five million kids," Sebelius said.

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