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For Immediate Release
August 9, 2006

Patrick McCabe (202) 745-5100
Becky Watt Knight (202) 745-5050

Number of Uninsured Kids Declines as Enrollees in State Health Insurance Programs Increase

Report shows 31% increase in kids enrolled in public programs, 5% decline in children being insured through private coverage

Washington, DC - Even though the total number of Americans without health insurance is on the rise, a new study analyzing government data suggests good news for the nation's children. The percentage of uninsured kids in America has decreased by 20 percent since the government-funded State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) was approved by Congress in 1997.

The State of Kids' Coverage was released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to kick off the Covering Kids & Families' Back-to-School Campaign, a nationwide effort to enroll eligible children in public health coverage programs during the back-to-school season. The report shows that the number of uninsured children has decreased by 2 million since the creation of SCHIP and recent expansions in public programs. In the same period, the number of uninsured Americans has increased by nearly 5 million people. States with the biggest decline in the percentage of uninsured kids are Arkansas (-60%), Maine (-50%), Alabama (-47%), South Carolina (-46%) and North Dakota (-44%).

The report also shows that fewer children are receiving private health insurance, which is supplied mostly through their parents' employer-sponsored health plans. The percentage of children who have private health insurance fell by five percent since 1997-98. That means 1.4 million fewer kids have private health insurance. States with the biggest decline in percentage of children having private health insurance include New Mexico (-23%), Mississippi (-23%), Alaska, (-23%), Oklahoma (-19%) and Wyoming (-17%).

"The decline in the number of uninsured kids is a rare piece of good news for our nation's health care system," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "The success of SCHIP and other public programs has provided a much-needed safety net for our nation's children, especially as fewer children are receiving employer-sponsored coverage. Congress was right to have the foresight in 1997 to authorize these programs, and states have been steadfast in their commitment to enrolling eligible children. Our nation's leaders must continue to make health coverage for all children a top priority."

The reports shows that even though the number of kids with private insurance is declining, public coverage programs have expanded, resulting in more kids being insured. The percentage of kids enrolled in public health coverage programs has increased by 31 percent since SCHIP programs began – meaning at least 5 million more kids now have public coverage. States with the greatest increase in percentage of kids enrolled in public coverage (e.g., SCHIP or Medicaid) since 1997-98 are Alaska (+139%), Maryland (+139%), Indiana (+132%), Wyoming (+114%) and Arkansas (+109%).

Despite the success of public programs, millions of children remain uninsured. The latest Census data show that nearly 8.3 million children remain uninsured nationwide. Experts say that more than 70 percent of these children are likely eligible for low-cost or free health care coverage through SCHIP or Medicaid, but have not yet enrolled. Programs exist in every state and the District of Columbia. Eligibility varies by state and is based on family size and income. Parents can call toll-free 1 (877) KIDS-NOW to find out if their uninsured children are eligible for Medicaid or SCHIP.

As part of its back-to-school campaign, Covering Kids & Families will reach thousands of families during August and September by:

  • Organizing enrollment activities at schools and other locations nationwide to encourage parents to seek information about enrolling their eligible children in Medicaid or SCHIP;
  • Working with Major League Soccer (MLS) teams across the country to declare "Children's Health Care Coverage Day." MLS will also promote the 1 (877) KIDS-NOW toll-free number on jumbotrons and in game programs, and distribute other materials during soccer matches;
  • Promoting the toll-free number through events, promotional materials and paid and public service advertising;
  • Working with schools, national education organizations, state and local coalitions and nearly 200 national organizations that support the Back-to-School Campaign to distribute information through websites, listserv announcements, newsletters, conferences and mailings; and
  • Forging partnerships with national and regional corporate and association partners including Capital One; Pfizer Inc; The Kroger Co. Family of Pharmacies; Giant Food LLC; Stop & Shop; ARAMARK; Univision; the National Association of Chain Drug Stores; and the Amateur Athletic Union to help promote the 1 (877) KIDS-NOW toll-free number on product packaging, through in-store giveaways, at community events, and more.

"We know that healthy children are better prepared to learn in school and better equipped to succeed in life. That is why health insurance and programs like SCHIP and Medicaid are critical to the overall health and success of our students," said Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Association. "Back-to-school season is the ideal time to make sure that children have the health coverage they need. We all can help by making sure that parents of uninsured kids know about these programs and find out if their kids are eligible. Children are this nation's most important asset, and we all should do everything we can to ensure that they succeed."

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 (1998-2005 Current Population Surveys) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics (State and Local Area Integrated Telephone Survey, 2004). Additional findings show that being uninsured for all or part of the year can have serious consequences for kids:

- Uninsured kids are twice as likely not to receive any medical care in a given year, compared to children with insurance (12.3% insured vs. 25.6% uninsured).

- More than one in three (35.0%) uninsured children do not have a personal doctor or nurse – which is significantly higher than children who have health coverage (13.5%).

"This report confirms that uninsured children face a disadvantage in their ability to access health care, compared to children who have health coverage," said Sarah Shuptrine, national program director for the Covering Kids & Families program. "When children do not make regular visits to the doctor, or receive medical attention when it is needed, they risk minor illnesses becoming major ones. Children need health coverage so that they receive all the care they need, when they need it, to grow and thrive."

To view the full research report, locate Covering Kids & Families Back-to-School activities or download materials in English or Spanish, log on to

Fast Facts:

- Parents should call toll-free 1 (877) KIDS-NOW or visit to find out if their children are eligible.

- About seven in 10 uninsured kids are eligible for low-cost or free health care coverage, but their parents may not realize it.

- Programs exist in every state. Children in a family of four earning up to $40,000 a year or more may qualify. Eligibility is based on family size and income.

- Grandparents or anyone who cares about an uninsured child should tell parents about these programs and urge them to call for more information.
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