The number of uninsured children has declined by 1.8 million over the past three years, thanks to increased enrollment in Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program, according to a new report released by Covering Kids & Families, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Yet 4 million uninsured children remain eligible for coverage under public health programs, the report notes
"The good news is that despite a weak economy, the number of uninsured children in America has declined, thanks in large part to SCHIP and Medicaid," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourney, M.D., president and CEO of the Princeton, N.J.-based, not-for-profit RWJF, in a written statement. "With unemployment at its highest level in almost a decade, the number of uninsured children could rise over the next year. That's why we need to redouble our efforts and enroll each and every one of the more than four million uninsured children who is eligible for low-cost or free healthcare coverage today."
The data come from the 2002 National Survey of America's Families, a project of the Urban Institute, which found that 7.8 million children were uninsured in 2002, a decrease of 1.8 million since 1999. More than 17 million children had coverage through SCHIP or Medicaid.
Children enrolled in the public programs were 1.5 times more likely than uninsured children to receive well-child visits, other types of office visits and dental care, the report concludes.
African-American and Hispanic children and those in low-income families made the greatest gains in coverage, but the percentage of uninsured African-American and Hispanic children is higher than that of white children.
Almost 3 million Hispanic children, or 21.2%, were uninsured in 2002, while 1.8 million of them were eligible for SCHIP or Medicaid, the report says. More than 1 million African-American children, or 9.5%, were uninsured that same year, although 60% were eligible for the public health programs.
Hispanic children are three times more likely to be uninsured than non-Hispanic white children, according to the survey, and more than twice as likely to be uninsured as African-American children.