Coalition Praises Families USA Study; Calls for Congress and the States to Act Quickly

NCHC Writers
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The National Coalition on Health Care commends Families USA for drawing attention to a problem that threatens to add millions of Americans to the ranks of the uninsured over the next few years. Their study is the most conclusive to date showing that welfare reform has had the “unintended consequence” of decreasing the number of low-income Americans with Medicaid coverage.

“Medicaid is a vital health insurance safety net for low-income Americans,” said Henry E. Simmons, M.D., president of the Coalition. “It appears that welfare reform has ripped a hole in that safety net. Congress and the states should act quickly to repair it.”

In a report released this month, the Coalition cited welfare reform as one of ten major forces causing an accelerating decline in health insurance coverage in the U.S. The report, Down a Dangerous Path: The Erosion of Health Insurance Coverage in the United States, notes that a sizable portion of children and adults who are eligible for Medicaid are not enrolled.

  • An estimated 4.7 million uninsured children in 1996 were eligible for Medicaid but not enrolled.
  • In 1997, 36.8 percent of families (17.8 million adults and children) with incomes below 100 percent of poverty were uninsured. In most states, the majority of these families would be eligible for Medicaid.
  • Medicaid provided health insurance in 1997 to only 45 percent of those with incomes below the federal poverty level ($13,300 for a family of three and $16,700 for a family of four).

Simmons said the findings of both studies should sound an alarm bell in Congress.

“It is a national embarrassment that 43.4 million Americans have no health insurance,” Simmons said. “We are the only industrialized nation in the world, except South Africa, that allows so many of our citizens to go without the security of health insurance. It is time once again to begin a national debate on how we are going to solve this problem,” added Dr. Simmons.

The National Coalition on Health Care is the nation’s most broadly representative alliance working to improve the health and health care of all Americans. Its nearly 100 members include large and small businesses, labor unions, consumer groups (including Families USA), health professional and religious organizations. Former Presidents George Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald R. Ford serve as Honorary Co-Chairs and Former Governor Bob Ray (R-IA) and Former Congressman Paul Rogers (D-FL) serve as Co-Chairs.

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