Report: Millions of Children Uninsured Because Parents Fail To Apply for Aid
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WASHINGTON — Most of the 9 million uninsured children in this nation live in homes where at least one parent works full time — and more than one-quarter of American homes have two working parents. The advocacy group Families USA, which promotes universal health coverage, says that finding goes against the stereotype that many people have of the uninsured.
“I think they believe these are low-income people who don’t work, who are very different from themselves,” the group’s executive director, Ron Pollack, said. “These are people who work, who are doing the right thing.”
In a report being released yesterday, the group said about two-thirds of the families would qualify for government-sponsored coverage for their children if parents would apply.
“The reason these children are not participating is that, no. 1, many don’t know about it, and no. 2, the enrollment process is cumbersome,” Mr. Pollack said. Mark McClellan, who oversees federally subsidized health insurance programs at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the Bush administration knows that outreach can be improved. He testified recently that President Bush wants to spend $100 million annually to help states, schools, and faith-based groups improve enrollment rates. Overall, 88.3% of uninsured children age 18 and under live in households with a working parent. About 70% live in households were a parent works full time, year-round, according to the report. If an employee has access to employersponsored coverage, he will pay about $226 a month for family coverage. But many have jobs that do not offer health coverage. The government has two programs that provide health insurance for children:
• Medicaid primarily covers children living in poverty.
• The State Children’s Health Insurance Program covers children who live just above the poverty level. That level is typically between 100% and 200% of poverty. The poverty level for a family of four last year was $19,971.
The government spends about $4 billion annually on the latter program. Families USA says an additional $12 billion will be needed over the next five years to maintain current enrollment, now at about 6.1 million children.