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States safeguarding public coverage: survey


By Jennifer Lubell
Posted: December 8, 2009 - 12:45 pm ET
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Most states in 2009 managed to preserve or expand health coverage for children and parents despite the deep recession, according to a 50-state survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation's Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.

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Twenty-six states bolstered coverage for low-income children, parents and pregnant women in 2009, either by expanding eligibility, simplifying enrollment procedures or reducing financial barriers, the report found.

The renewal of the State Children's Health Insurance Program along with the fiscal relief and Medicaid enhancements provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act “proved critical to enable states to continue their commitment to providing coverage to millions of low-income families,” said Diane Rowland, executive director of the commission, in a written statement. “However, even with signs of economic recovery, state revenues are still mired in a severe slump and, faced with the end of enhanced federal money after 2010, fiscal shortfalls are likely to cause states to consider significant cuts to Medicaid and CHIP,” Rowland said.

Fifteen states did scale back coverage in their SCHIP programs during 2009 by increasing waiting periods, retracting eligibility simplifications, and enacting modest increases in SCHIP premiums. Although no state reduced eligibility for children, both California and Tennessee froze SCHIP enrollment for some period of time this year.

Forty-seven states currently cover children in families with an annual income at or higher than 200% of the federal poverty level ($36,620 for a family of three), with half (24 states) covering children in families with incomes at or greater than 250% of poverty ($45,775 for a family of three), the commission report stated.

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