Gains for Children

The number of children eligible for and enrolled in public health insurance programs increased in recent years, according to a report released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and prepared by researchers at the Urban Institute. As a consequence, the number of eligible but uninsured kids fell by about 340,000 between 2008 and 2009. About 4.3 million children who were eligible for public programs remained uninsured.

The report shows that the number of children eligible for Medicaid/CHIP increased by an estimated 2.5 million nationwide between 2008 and 2009. Rates of participation also increased, from 82.1 to 84.8 percent nationally. Participation increased across many demographic categories, including race/ethnicity, age, income level and language group. Sixteen states (including the District of Columbia) achieved participation rates of 90 percent or higher in 2009. Three states—Texas, California and Florida—accounted for nearly 40 percent of the remaining eligible but uninsured children.

Because the Affordable Care Act (ACA) expands Medicaid coverage to many more low-income adults, state and federal policy-makers and advocates seek to better understand recent trends in enrolling eligible kids. The report’s authors say the high participation rates among children over the past few years are likely a consequence of ongoing federal and state policy efforts aimed at improving enrollment and retention among children, including the reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program in 2009.