Fewer children are falling through society's safety net, recent government statistics show, but that might change as states face the daunting challenge of trying to insure more youngsters with less money.
A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the percent of children without health insurance declined from 13.9 percent in 1997 to 9.8 percent in the first half of 2002. However, while public insurance coverage such as that provided by the Children's Health Insurance Program remained fairly constant until 2000, it has increased steeply in the last two years. Meanwhile, the percent of children covered by private plans dropped.
Tommy Thompson, secretary of health and human services, says the data indicate that giving governors wide latitude regarding how to spend federal CHIP dollars has helped to cover more youngsters. The federal financial contribution to CHIP is substantial, ranging from 65 percent to 84 percent of total program dollars, depending on the state.
However, even this relatively small share may become too burdensome for states, many of which face deficits of 13 percent to 18 percent, according to a survey by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The survey adds that 11 states have proposed reducing Medicaid and CHIP benefits, and about 1 million people would lose coverage as a result.
Percent of persons under 65 with public health coverage (1997-2002)
Percent of persons under 65 with private health coverage (1997-2002)
Percent of persons without health insurance by age group (1997-2002)
SOURCE: CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION, EARLY RELEASE OF SELECTED ESTIMATES BASED ON DATA FROM THE JANUARY-JUNE 2002 NATIONAL HEALTH INTERVIEW SURVEY