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Nine million children left uninsured by America's health care system

Friday, September 29, 2006 by: Ben Kage
Tags: health care coverage, universal health care, uninsured patients


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(NewsTarget) A report by Families USA -- prepared for the Campaign for Children's Health Care -- found that most of the United States' 9 million children without health insurance live in two-parent families with at least one working parent.

One parent or both parents either have jobs that do not offer health insurance, or they do not make enough money to afford any coverage their employer might offer, the report found.

California has the highest number of uninsured children at 1.3 million, according to the report, even though California allows families who make as much as 250 percent of the poverty level (about $41,000 a year for a family of three) to enroll in the State Children's Health Insurance Program, the federal- and state-sponsored plan to help insure people who make too much to qualify for Medicare.

According to the Families USA report, many states have frozen their SCHIP plans to save money, which means even eligible children cannot be enrolled in the program. On top of that, SCHIP faces a funding shortfall of almost $1 billion for fiscal year 2007 when it is up for reauthorization by Congress next year.

The other problem is that, while almost two-thirds of uninsured children qualify for some form of government-sponsored insurance program, many families do not know about them or are discouraged by the complex regulations that come with signing up, said Andy Schneider, a senior advisor at low-income-family advocacy group the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Another portion of uninsured children fall through the cracks because their families make too much to qualify for Medicare but still too little to afford private coverage.

The difficulty of obtaining health insurance creates a vicious circle, as high health care prices prompt families to wait until the last possible moment to seek treatment for an ailment, which, in turn, drives up the cost of health care.

A number of activists and members of Congress say that help is on the political horizon, suggesting that Democrats will push harder for universal health care coverage if they win a congressional majority in November.

"I think you're seeing some real pressure building as fewer and fewer people are getting employment-based benefits," said Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, who has introduced legislation to provide health insurance to all children by 2012. "I'm sensing a strong feeling throughout the country that we need to get health care for all."

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