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Journal Issue: Health Insurance for Children Volume 13 Number 1 Spring 2003

Which Children are Still Uninsured and Why
John Holahan Lisa C. Dubay Genevieve M. Kenney

Summary

A strong economy and increased enrollment in employer-sponsored health insurance coverage, together with expansions in Medicaid and State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) led to reductions in uninsurance among low-income American children between 1998 and 2000 (from 15.6% to 13.3%). Nonetheless, 12% (about 9 million) of children remained uninsured. Identifying these children and understanding the factors that contribute to their continued lack of health coverage is key to providing them access to health care.

Using 1994, 1998, and 2000 census data, this article analyzes recent trends in children's health coverage, as well as the groups that make up the population of uninsured children. The picture that emerges from these analyses is one of tremendous variation in coverage for different groups of children, with some groups having a higher risk for lacking health insurance. For example, poor children, Hispanics, adolescents, and children with foreign-born parents (particularly those whose parents are not U.S. citizens) are overrepresented among the uninsured.

The authors conclude that the strong economy and concomitant increase in employer-based coverage played a bigger part in reducing uninsurance rates than did expansions in public programs. They also argue that lack of participation by eligible children rather than inadequate eligibility levels is the key policy issue, and conclude with several recommendations to increase program participation.