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From Health Law Daily, April 14, 2014

Uninsured rates drop among children, disparities narrowing

By Patricia K. Ruiz, JD

The percentage of children without health insurance in the U.S. has dropped from 9.7 percent in 2008 to 7.5 percent in 2012, according to a report by University of Minnesota researchers, the State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC), and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The report showed that the increase in insurance coverage was significant among children in demographic groups most likely to be uninsured, namely non-white and Hispanic children and children from low-income families.

Health reform and uninsured rates. The report details the findings of SHADAC, which analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. This data, according to the researchers, can be helpful for determining how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148) affects the number of uninsured children over time. Though more adults are affected by the ACA than are children, SHADAC Director Lynn Blewett, PhD said in a press release, “As eligible parents sign up for free or low-cost health insurance, more children will also gain coverage.”

According to the researchers, since the recession, the methods by which children obtained health insurance have changed. Private health insurance covered 64.5 percent of children in 2008, but only 59.0 percent in 2012. However, the increase in public coverage such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), from 25.9 percent in 2008 to 33.6 percent in 2012, “more than offset this decline,” according to the researchers.

Income, racial disparities narrowing. The researchers also noted that “disparities in coverage rates between low-income and higher-income children and across racial and ethnic groups have narrowed over time.” The report showed that, in 2008, children from families at or below 138 percent of the poverty level were 5.3 times more likely to be uninsured than those from families with incomes above 400 percent of the poverty level. The gap had narrowed by 2012 to 4.5. In the same period of time, the gap between non-white and white children dropped from 1.5 to 1.3, and the gap between Hispanic and white children dropped from 2.8 to 2.3, according to the study.

“Reducing the number of children who lack health insurance has been a focus of state and federal policy-makers for years, and it’s encouraging to see that tremendous progress has been made,” said RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, in the press release. “More American children now have stable, affordable health coverage, and that means they can get the care they need to learn and grow.”

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