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Study: Higher Percentage of Eligible Children Enrolling in Public Health Insurance

By Rebecca Adams, CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor

September 18, 2013 -- Most children who qualify for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are getting enrolled, according to a new study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute.

About 87.2 percent of children who were eligible for public health insurance programs in 2011 enrolled. That's an increase of 5.5 percentage points since 2008.

The number of eligible-but-uninsured children dropped from 4.9 million in 2008 to 4.0 million in 2011, an 18 percent drop in three years.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia, most of them west of Texas, enrolled at least 90 percent of children who are eligible. Those states include a mix of states that have decided to expand Medicaid for adults and those that have not.

Some of the success in getting more youngsters signed up is due to growing awareness of the coverage and increased state efforts and encouragement by federal officials to simplify enrollment and renewal processes.

The report said that it is unclear whether the progress will continue.

"On one hand, a number of policies that will be introduced under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including the expansion of coverage to more parents, the new outreach and enrollment efforts, and the new subsidies for coverage, combined with the individual mandate should lead to increases in participation in Medicaid and CHIP and reductions in uninsurance among children," said the report. "On the other hand, uncertainty over the future of CHIP, which was reauthorized through October 1, 2015, raises the possibility that the coverage gains that children have experienced will erode."

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