Study: More Kids Than Ever Without Health Insurance

Coverage under employer-based plans continues to decline, study finds

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SUNDAY, May 15, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- More than 2 million children in the United States become uninsured each year after their parents lose their employer-based health insurance, according to a new American Academy of Pediatrics study.

The study found that of an estimated 3 million children who lose employer-based health insurance each year, 75 percent subsequently become uninsured. While 32 percent regain employer-based health insurance coverage within a year, about the same number remain uninsured for a year or longer.

The findings are based on an analysis of more than 18,000 records of children contained in six years of U.S. federal government survey data from 1996 to 2001.

The findings were presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Washington, D.C.

In 2003, about 60 percent of children were covered by employer-based health insurance, according to the Census Bureau. However, this percentage has been shrinking at an average of one percentage point a year over the last decade. The decline has persisted even through economic boom times, the researchers noted.

They found that about 12 percent of the children -- many of whom have chronic illnesses and have special care needs -- who lose employer-based health insurance are able to stay insured by maintaining Medicaid coverage they had prior to losing the employer-based coverage. However, this Medicaid coverage is threatened by federal government proposals to cut Medicaid spending, the researchers said.

"In addition to unaffordable COBRA [purchased at cost from the ex-employer], prohibitively expensive private insurance and Medicaid or SCHIP enrollment barriers, an additional reason why so many [children] went uninsured may be the fact that more workers, while retaining their jobs, are dropping coverage when they can no longer afford their share of the fast-rising premiums," the study authors wrote.

Family coverage premiums increased by 91 percent from 1996 to 2004, averaging $9,945 annually in 2004, with the average worker contribution being more than $2,600, according to the Employer Health Benefits Survey from the Health Research and Educational Trust.

More information

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more about children's health insurance.

SOURCE: Pediatric Academic Societies, news release, May 15, 2005

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