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Want to Cover More Children? Adopt Health Reform’s Medicaid Expansion

A new report from the Georgetown Center for Children and Families brings good news:  the share of children without health coverage continues to drop, from 8.6 percent in 2009 to 7.5 percent in 2011.  Higher enrollment in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) — plus health reform’s requirement that states maintain their current Medicaid and CHIP eligibility rules — played critical roles in this drop, the report finds, even as the number of children with employer-sponsored insurance fell.

The report also notes that if we’re going to expand children’s coverage further, states must fully implement health reform, particularly its expansion of Medicaid coverage to more low-income adults.

Research shows that when states expand Medicaid for parents, the number of uninsured children falls, because parents are more likely to sign up their children for coverage when the whole family can get coverage.  Studies also find that when parents have coverage, their children are less likely to experience breaks in their own coverage and are more likely to receive preventive care and other needed care.

As the Georgetown report notes, two-thirds of the nation’s 5.5 million uninsured children are already eligible for Medicaid or CHIP coverage but are unenrolled.  To make further progress in covering children, states should make sure that their parents have access to coverage in 2014 by adopting the Medicaid expansion.