AHRQ Press Release

NCHC Writer
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Increase in the Number of Insured Children Shows Progress, But Major Problems Persist

Henry Simmons, M.D., President of the National Coalition on Health Care, released the following statement today in response to the HHS report on enrollment in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP):

“The latest Health and Human Services (HHS) figures, which show that 1.3 million children were added to SCHIP last year, demonstrate that public health insurance programs can be effective in reaching lower-income, uninsured populations. However, there is still a great deal of work to be done in order to achieve universal health insurance coverage.

“First, there are still nearly 6 million uninsured children with family incomes below 200 percent of poverty who are eligible for SCHIP benefits, as well as Medicaid coverage. More effective outreach and enrollment strategies are needed to help eligible families better understand the benefits of SCHIP.

“Second, the President’s budget for fiscal year 2003 calls for no new resources to help states insure more uninsured children. The budget does call for a partial give-back to states of unspent SCHIP funds. But the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) also estimates that nearly 1 million children could lose their health insurance coverage over the next four years, due to prior congressional funding restraints. Without new federal funds, it will be difficult for states to retain current coverage levels or expand coverage to our most vulnerable population – uninsured children.

“Third, according to the HHS report, many states have already been reporting high turnover in children’s coverage – often as high as 50 percent of the enrollees in their programs. It is critically important that state programs focus more of their efforts on providing continuity of coverage for enrollees.

“The President and the Congress should act immediately to insure that no lower-income children lose their health coverage, and that substantial funds be set aside this year to expand coverage and to assist states in their outreach and enrollment efforts.

“And we must not ignore the fact that this country cannot achieve universal coverage without addressing the related issues of cost and quality. With costs rising at three times the rate of general inflation and problems of quality adding to the overall costs, our country is facing a serious crisis in our health care system.”

The National Coalition on Health Care is the nation’s largest and most broadly representative non-profit, non-partisan alliance working to improve America’s health care. It is comprised of 80 member organizations, which include large and small businesses, labor unions, and consumer, physician, hospital, and religious groups. Honorary Co-Chairs are former Presidents Bush, Carter, and Ford. Co-Chairs are Robert D. Ray, former Republican Governor of Iowa, and Paul G. Rogers, former Democratic Congressman from Florida. Additional information on the Coalition can be found on its web site at www.nchc.org.