More Eligible Kids are Enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP – Say Ahhh! A Children’s Health Policy Blog

Maybe it’s the famine in Somalia, the ever-fluctuating stock market, the riots in London, the ongoing deficit and debt talks, but I’m in some serious need of good news. Thanks to Jenny Kenney and her colleagues at the Urban Institute, we’ve got some – participation in Medicaid and CHIP has gone up!

Their new report finds that the number of children eligible for Medicaid/CHIP increased by about 2.5 million between 2008 and 2009. On a national level, about half of this increase was due to the recession and the decline in income; the other half is the result of eligibility expansions (as with most things Medicaid, this division varies by state).

But despite the increase in the number of eligible children, participation also rose from 82.1% to 84.8%, and was higher (84.9%) among those who were previously eligible, than those who were newly eligible due to an expansion in eligibility (76.5%). There’s that welcome mat effect!

Participation increased across the country, with the greatest increases in the South and in the West. Thirty states saw significant increases in their participation rates – with Colorado topping the list at an 11.4 percentage point increase. The increases occurred for children of different races/ethnicities, ages, incomes, and languages; only non-citizen children didn’t experience a significant increase in participation.

The effect of all this? A reduction in the number of eligible, but uninsured children by about 340,000. This decline in uninsurance among the eligible kids contributed to the overall decline in the uninsured rate for ALL kids seen during this time period.

But alas, our work is not done. There are still an estimated 4.3 million eligible, but uninsured children out there. Almost 40% of them are in just three large states – Texas, California, and Florida – and 62% live in one of 10 states.

While it will not be easy to get all the remaining eligible kids covered, there are plenty of states to look to as role models. In fact, 16 states now have participation rates at or above 90%. If every state reached this level of participation, just 2.8 million eligible, but uninsured kids would remain; if every state obtained a 95% participation rate, the number would be only 1.4 million.

Don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a little better now.

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