Kids’ health coverage a continuing bright spot

If it weren’t for the recent passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), there would have been very little progress made toward reducing the overall number and the percentage of uninsured adults in the United States.

Efforts to expand children’s coverage is another matter.

Census Bureau statistics bear this out: The portion of children who lack coverage declined from 12.5 percent in 1999 to 9.9 percent in 2008. What caused this? Gains in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, with 1.7 million more children covered than a year earlier. Also, the number of uninsured children below the federal poverty level decreased in 2008 to 2.2 million — a 5.7 percentage point drop.

PPACA will affect children’s coverage in a number of ways. For example, beginning in 2014, the law makes Medicaid coverage mandatory for kids ages 6-19 in families between 100 percent and 133 percent of the federal poverty level. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will continue through 2019. States can expect a significant increase in the CHIP match rate, up to 100 percent of costs, in 2015. Current match rates range from 65 to 85 percent.

2010 federal poverty level guidelines
Percent poverty guidelines
Family size 100% 133% 200%
2 $14,570 $19,378 $29,140
3 $18,310 $24,352 $36,620
4 $22,050 $29,326 $44,100
Source: 2010 Federal Poverty Guidelines, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Private insurer coverage of children under PPACA

Plans will have to cover pre-existing conditions for currently insured children and not exclude children with pre-existing conditions from future coverage. The requirement becomes effective with the insurance plan years that begin after Sept. 23, 2010 (the year starts Jan. 1, 2011 for most people).

After September 23, 2010

  • Young adults can remain on their parents’ health plan until they turn 26.
  • Children under 19 with private insurance can no longer be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions.
  • Insurers may no longer impose lifetime caps or restrictive annual limits on coverage, and may not rescind coverage when a person becomes ill.
  • New plans must provide free preventive services to enrollees.

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