This is a blog for the Mental Health Policy Class at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work.

November 29, 2007

Hard choices on healthcare (LA Times)

By most accounts, the SCHIP program has been a 10-year success story. The number of uninsured children dropped steadily from 11.1 million in 1998, the year after the program began, to its lowest level of 7.9 million in 2004, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures. But the number of kids without insurance grew by about 1 million from the beginning of 2004 through 2005, and according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, half of the newly uninsured children came from families earning from about $40,000 to about $80,000 a year (based on a family of four). "It increased in the last year, probably because both adults and kids are losing job-based coverage," says E. Richard Brown, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.Some of those newly uninsured children qualify for SCHIP but their families are unaware of the program. In some cases, states with budget shortfalls have stopped enrolling children. And when a family loses employer coverage, their children must go through a waiting period of a year, extended in August by the Department of Health and Human Services from three months, before being eligible.What's certain is that SCHIP-insured kids get their checkups. Children in the program are more likely to receive preventive healthcare, specialty care and dental care than uninsured children, and their parents report fewer financial burdens, unmet medical needs and less worry about their children, according to a report in the August 2007 journal Health Services Research. "It has provided access to kids who wouldn't have had coverage," says Brown. "It's cheap, and it'll help produce healthy and productive adults. I don't know what more we could ask for."

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