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States Can Reduce Kids’ Uninsured Rate Further by Expanding Medicaid

The Georgetown University Center for Children and Families’ annual report on children’s health coverage, released today, brings welcome news:  the rate of children without health coverage fell for the fifth consecutive year, from 9.3 percent in 2008 to 7.2 percent in 2012 (see chart).


The report notes that state decisions whether to expand Medicaid under health reform, which would extend coverage to adults earning less than 133 percent of the federal poverty line ($25,975 for a family of three), will build on these gains in children’s coverage.  Here’s why:

Nearly 70 percent of the nation’s 5.3 million uninsured children are already eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program but are not enrolled, according to Georgetown’s researchers.  When states expand Medicaid for parents, the number of uninsured children falls, because parents are more likely to sign up their eligible children for coverage when the whole family can get coverage, research shows.  Research also finds that when parents have coverage, their children are less likely to experience breaks in coverage and are more likely to receive preventive care and other needed care.  As a result, making coverage available to more low-income parents through health reform’s Medicaid expansion should further reduce the ranks of uninsured children.

Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia already have decided to expand Medicaid next year.  As policymakers in Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and other states contemplate whether to expand their Medicaid programs, they should consider the positive impact that expansion will have on children’s health coverage and access to needed care.