Health Insurance :: New state-by-state analysis shows 6.6 million children covered by SCHIP at some point last year

With the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) set to expire Sept. 30, experts say that unless Congress and the White House reauthorize the program and agree on its funding, coverage for vulnerable children nationwide will be in jeopardy.

At risk are millions of children who were covered by SCHIP at some point last year and millions more who are SCHIP-eligible, but not yet enrolled.

According to an analysis of government data released today, more than 6.6 million children were covered by SCHIP at some point last year. Nearly 9 million children remain uninsured. Before adjourning for summer recess last week, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate approved separate SCHIP bills that would provide funding to cover more SCHIP-eligible children. Amidst presidential veto threats, lawmakers from both chambers must now negotiate consensus legislation to send to the White House.

“An earlier Congress showed tremendous foresight in enacting SCHIP a decade ago, and now this Congress needs to follow in its footsteps, reauthorize and fund it to cover millions of kids from working-class homes who are already eligible for SCHIP but not yet enrolled,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which released today’s analysis. “The success of SCHIP over the past decade has been a rare piece of good news on the health care front. People from diverse political backgrounds strongly support the program, because it is a much-needed safety net for uninsured children. This highly successful partnership between federal and state government needs to continue its good work and cover more kids.”

Governors from both political parties and health care leaders say they will participate in events supporting SCHIP in the coming weeks, urging Congress and the White House to reauthorize and strengthen the program. Advocates for children including doctors, nurses, faith leaders, business owners, teachers, consumer advocates and others are participating in events. The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, Catholic Health Association of the United States, Families USA and others also are planning or participating in activities.

“As a pediatrician, I know firsthand that having insurance coverage enables kids to access the medical care they need when they need it. Most uninsured children are eligible for health insurance through public programs like SCHIP, but they may not be able to participate because of insufficient program funding or enrollment barriers,” said Jay E. Berkelhamer, M.D., president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Millions of parents preparing to send their kids back to school worry about whether their children will be able to get health care when they need it. At a time like this, with a program that is working, SCHIP needs to be strengthened and renewed as soon as possible.”

Signed into law in 1997, SCHIP provides each state with federal funds to design a health insurance program for vulnerable children. The states determine eligibility rules, benefit packages and payment levels.

The analysis released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows:

A total of 6.6 million children nationwide were enrolled in SCHIP at some point during 2006.
Since Congress first authorized SCHIP in 1997, the percentage of uninsured children in America has fallen by 24 percent.
Nationally, uninsured children are more than three times less likely than insured children to visit a doctor in the course of a year (10% for insured children versus 33% for uninsured children).
More than half (54%) of all uninsured children did not have a “well-child” checkup in the past year?more than double the rate of children with insurance (25%).

“People across America overwhelmingly support SCHIP and understand the value of health insurance for America’s kids,” said Lavizzo-Mourey. “Leaders of both political parties have long agreed that SCHIP is an incredible success story. Now they must work across party lines and focus on what a reauthorized, properly-funded SCHIP really means for kids?the ability to get health care when it is needed?so that all children have an opportunity to be healthy and thrive.”

Analysts at the State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC), located at the University of Minnesota, prepared today’s report. The report analyzes data from the U.S. Census Bureau (1998, 1999, 2005 and 2006 Current Population Surveys), U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (2002-2006) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey (2006) and National Survey of Children’s Health (2003).

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