Families USA, a national health care advocacy group, has released a good news-bad news report. (Read article on boston.com) The good news is that the number of uninsured children has declined by about 6 percent last year. Nationally, about one in nine children had no health insurance in 2007, according to the US Census Bureau. Massachusetts boasts the lowest rate of uninsured children in the nation; about 4.6% of kids in this state lacked health insurance between 2005 and 2007.
The bad news is that these kids are getting coverage because more children are poor and eligible for government programs. I’m not sure if we can take this as a positive outcome from the recent economic crisis. Although the goal is to make sure that all children have access to health coverage, no one wants to see that happen by increasing the number of poor kids.
In any case, the Families USA report brings into focus the importance of both a short-term and long-term strategy for children’s health care.
As soon as possible, Congress should pass legislation reauthorizing and strengthening the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP). As the current economic situation plays out, we are likely to see more children sliding into poverty and in need of public programs such as SCHIP to access health care.
Over the long haul, we need to fundamentally rethink how children get coverage. Perhaps the most interesting and troubling aspect of the Families USA report is that more than 88% of uninsured young people come from a household with at least one working parent. If even children from families that are employed can’t get coverage, something is wrong.
President-Elect Obama has indicated that health reform is a top priority of his new administration. The needs of children must be an important part of any plan that gets considered.
Health Reform Policy Associate
Children’s Health Coordinator