Fewer CO children insured

As President Bush, governors and members of Congress debate how much federal funding to devote to children’s health insurance programs administered by the states, a new analysis provides a clearer look at uninsured children in Colorado and nationwide. The analysis, released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, shows that since 1997, employer offers of health insurance to parents with modest incomes have fallen three times as fast as offers to parents who earn more money.

The figures underscore that working parents who earn modest incomes are experiencing dramatic erosion in employee benefits. Nationally, fewer than half (47 percent) of parents in families earning less than $40,000 a year are offered health insurance through their employer – a nine percent drop since 1997. Meanwhile, offers of health insurance to parents who earn $80,000 or more have held steady at about 78 percent.

The analysis shows two out of three uninsured kids in Colorado (65 percent) live with adults who earn modest incomes, calculated at $40,000 or less for a family of four. Many of these uninsured children would likely be eligible for free or low-cost insurance coverage through the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) – called Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) in Colorado – which Congress is set to reauthorize this year. Signed into law in 1997, SCHIP provides each state with federal funds to design a health insurance program for vulnerable children. The states each determine eligibility rules, benefit packages and payment levels.

“In reauthorizing SCHIP, Congress must provide the funds needed to maintain coverage for all currently enrolled kids and the millions more who are eligible but remain unenrolled. We must ensure that children whose parents work hard but cannot afford health insurance for their kids can get the health care they need to thrive,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “For the last decade, SCHIP has provided a much-needed safety net for our nation’s kids, especially as there has been a decline in the number of children in low-income families covered by employer-sponsored health insurance. Parents realize that providing health insurance for their children is becoming more costly and those who earn modest wages are doubly squeezed. They are less likely to be offered insurance on the job, and less able to afford to purchase it on their own.”

“In Colorado, like the rest of the nation, health care costs continue to rise, straining the budgets of Colorado’s working families. As a result, the number of uninsured kids here in Colorado continues to grow,” said Colorado Lieutenant Governor Barbara O’Brien. “Access to healthcare is fundamental to our administration’s goal to create a better Colorado for our children and our grandchildren, Reauthorization and full funding of SCHIP will enable CHP+ to continue to offer a low-cost health care solution for parents and their children.”

Other state-specific information contained in the analysis includes:

- More than 175,000 children in Colorado (14 percent) are uninsured – that’s about one in every seven kids in the state. This is above the national average of 12 percent, or one in every eight kids.

- Most uninsured children – including children in low-income homes – have parents who work. In Colorado, three out of four uninsured children (76 percent) live with someone who works full-time.

- Since SCHIP began 10 years ago, the number of children living without health insurance has dramatically dropped. Last fiscal year, more than 6 million children in the United States were enrolled in SCHIP.

- For Colorado kids in families who earn modest wages (defined as $40,000 a year for a family of four), the need for SCHIP is great. Nearly two out of three uninsured kids (65 percent) in Colorado are in families who earn modest incomes.

In Colorado, 65 percent of uninsured kids under the age of five live in these low-income households, as do 70 percent of 6-12 year-old uninsured children and 58 percent of uninsured children aged 13-18.

“Because of SCHIP, millions of children can see doctors when they are sick and get the check-ups and prescription medicines they need. That’s an important investment in our nation’s future,” said Lavizzo-Mourey. “Many parents who work but cannot afford health insurance, or are not offered coverage through their jobs, can make sure their children get the health care they need because of these programs. Healthy children are better prepared to learn in school and succeed in life.”

Today’s report was prepared by analysts at the State Health Access Data Assistance Center (SHADAC), located at the University of Minnesota. The report analyzes data from the U.S. Census Bureau (1998-2006 Current Population Surveys), U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (2002-2005) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey (1997 and 2005).

The report and other information on the uninsured are available at www.CoverTheUninsured.org. For more information about Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+), go to www.CHPplus.org or www.insurekidsnow.gov. Parents with uninsured children can call 1-877-KIDS-NOW to determine if their child is eligible for low-cost or free health coverage.

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