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Pat Little/AP

Uninsured Numbers Catch Some by Surprise

August 27, 2008 02:58 PM
by Emily Coakley
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that about one million more people were covered by health insurance in 2007 than in 2006, thanks to government health programs.

An Argument for Universal Health Care

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Karen Davis of the Commonwealth Fund, a health care advocacy group, told HealthDay the Census figures were “a bit of a surprise.” She pointed to differences between Massachusetts and Texas to illustrate why she thinks government health programs are essential. In Massachusetts, where there is a state-sponsored universal health care program, the uninsured rate is 4.7 percent. In contrast, more than a quarter of Texas residents have no health insurance, and the state lacks a similar program.

Advocates warn that the gains the Census Bureau reported will be short-lived

Bruce Lesley of First Focus told the Los Angeles Times: “While this decline is a temporary victory for kids, we fear next year’s data will paint a worse picture for America’s children than ever before, as the effects of a sluggish economy will be coupled with the inability of Congress to pass renewal of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program over President Bush’s two vetoes.”

State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, is a program that the federal government administers with the states. Davis told HealthDay it picked up the majority of the uninsured gains that the Census Bureau reported.

But what SCHIP will look like after 2009 is still not clear.

After a long fight last year with the White House, Congressional Democrats ultimately had to accept a short-term reauthorization of the SCHIP program.

At the end of last year, President Bush signed a law that authorizes SCHIP through March 2009, according to the Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report.

The two sides differed on whether to expand coverage to children whose parents have higher salaries than the program now allows. Democrats, according to Kaiser, tried unsuccessfully to get rid of a rule that required states to enroll 95 percent of low-income children eligible for the program before expanding the income eligibility.

Turning to Medicaid

Rebecca Grayson at WeKnowDieting.com said her family has made some drastic changes to afford their health insurance. She wrote about her experience on the site’s blog. Grayson and her husband got rid of their private health insurance for the family. The parents now have an emergency health insurance plan, and the kids have been enrolled in Medicaid.

Grayson said it wasn’t easy for her to turn to Medicaid.

“But in a slow economy, there’s just no room for what we were paying for our private health insurance: $2,000 every 6 months in premiums, with a $30 copay, $10 prescription copay, and $1,000 deductible for each family member. Did I mention that both boys were on 4–6 rounds of antibiotics before getting tubes last year?”

She might return to work next year so the family can be a little more comfortable, “you know, with adequate health insurance coverage. What a luxury!”

Related Topic: Marrying for health insurance

Reference: Health insurance options

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