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Number of Uninsured Children Down, But Too Many Still Not in Public Programs, Report Says

AUGUST 2, 2005 -- About 8.4 million children are not covered by health care insurance—about 2 million fewer than in 1998, according to a report by the Urban Institute and the University of Minnesota's State Health Access Data Assistance Center.

But 70 percent of uninsured children eligible for public programs such as Medicaid or State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) are not enrolled, according to the report, released today as part of a star-studded launch of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's sixth annual Covering Kids and Families Back to School Campaign.

The report also says that a third of the uninsured children had no medical care in 2003.

"The good news is that our work is paying off," said Sarah Shuptrine, founder, president, and CEO of the Southern Institute on Children and Families. She noted the drop in the number of uninsured children occurred despite the 1.2 million increase in the number of uninsured parents over the same period.
Kids have not lost coverage in the face of Medicaid cuts, Shuptrine said, because Congress has kept insuring children a priority.

"Through all these budget cuts in all the years, we have seen much less erosion in eligibility for children than you might have thought could have happened," she said. She added that covering children is "cost-effective"—kids represent half of all eligible enrollees in government programs but only 19 percent of expenditures.

Shuptrine also noted, "Minority families, especially African American families, made the greatest gains."

Nevertheless, the study found that African American and Hispanic children disproportionately lack health care coverage; 20 percent of Hispanic children are uninsured, as are 9 percent of African American and 6 percent of non-Hispanic white children.

Others noted that more still needs to be done. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said the results of uninsured rates are "crystal clear, pervasive among children in every state and completely unacceptable."

The Covering Kids and Families program is a collaborative effort headed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with corporate, advocacy, public health, and government partners.

Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, Washington D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, D.C. United soccer players Freddy Adu and Jaime Moreno, and recording artists Willie Colón, Mary Mary, and Benny Cassette helped promote the initiative's campaign Tuesday. The campaign involves thousands of activities nationwide to enroll eligible children in Medicaid and SCHIP.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has committed $145 million to Covering Kids and Families since 1999, according to David Morse, the foundation's vice president for communications.

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