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More working-poor families cover their children through Medicaid and CHIP

Janay Gill, 5, wears a nebulizer before heading to school in North Carolina on Friday, May 13, 2011. She suffers from chronic asthma and has to use it twice a day. Her mother Brandy Dunston enrolled her in the state’s Community Care to help afford the treatment. Community Care is a statewide network of doctors, pharmacists and care managers that work together to help keep costs down and try to squeeze more savings from treating Medicaid patients.
Janay Gill, 5, wears a nebulizer before heading to school in North Carolina on Friday, May 13, 2011. She suffers from chronic asthma and has to use it twice a day. Her mother Brandy Dunston enrolled her in the state’s Community Care to help afford the treatment. Community Care is a statewide network of doctors, pharmacists and care managers that work together to help keep costs down and try to squeeze more savings from treating Medicaid patients. 2011 News & Observer file photo

High health insurance costs are causing more low-income parents to cover their children through federal programs even if they have job-based health coverage for themselves, according to a new study by PolicyLab, an interdisciplinary research unit at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

From 2008 to 2013, the number of youngsters in low- and moderate-income families who were covered by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program increased 20 percent, the study found.

The trend was most pronounced among families who earned up to twice the federal poverty level in 2013. In those families, nearly a third of children were covered by Medicaid or CHIP, the study found. That’s up 31 percent from 2008.

In 2013, working parents paid an average of $4,500 annually for job-based family health coverage.

“I think that many families who were working to just keep food on the table simply could not afford that,” said a statement from Doug Strane, a PolicyLab research associate and lead author of the report. “While the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid are often considered programs for the unemployed, skyrocketing health care costs that are surpassing wage increases are making these programs essential to working families who want affordable, quality health insurance for their children.”

The study also found that in 2013, 9.2 percent of children were uninsured in families earning two to three times the federal poverty level – $47,100-$70,650 for a family of four. That’s up from 6 percent in 2008.

The study also found that in 2013, 9.2 percent of children were uninsured in families earning two to three times the federal poverty level – $47,100 to $70,650 for a family of four. That’s up from 6 percent in 2008.

The authors suggest many families in this income bracket reside in states where their children don’t meet the income criterion for CHIP or Medicaid.

“If those families were not offered dependent coverage by their employer, or could not afford the dependent coverage when it was offered, their only alternative” may have been to leave their children uninsured.

“During a time when children’s health-care coverage overall was stable or increasing, the fact that some moderate-income families were forgoing health insurance for their children could be a bellwether warning for an erosion of children’s coverage not seen in many decades,” said a statement from PolicyLab director Dr. David Rubin, senior author of the report. “Our study echoes the stories physicians are hearing in their clinics across the country – CHIP and Medicaid have become the backstop for providing health insurance coverage to children in many working families.”

The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 extended CHIP funding through Sept. 30, 2017. Congress must agree to extend federal funding beyond that date.

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