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Millions of Uninsured Kids Eligible for Health Coverage

SCHIP and Medicaid are there to help

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Some 9 million children in the U.S. are not covered by health insurance. Sadly, more than 6 million of those children could be getting health care coverage through Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), In 2003, 4.1 million uninsured children were eligible for Medicaid, and 2.2 million uninsured children were SCHIP eligible, yet none of these children was enrolled.

"We need to do a better job of spreading the word among families that these programs are available," said AAP President Carol Berkowitz, MD in a recent press release. "We also have to make enrolling in Medicaid or SCHIP easy. The forms are too long and complicated."

Created in 1997 with bipartisan support in Congress, SCHIP is a state and federal partnership program designed to provide health insurance coverage to uninsured children, many of whom come from working families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid but too low to afford private health insurance. The SCHIP law authorized $40 billion in federal funds over 10 years to improve children's access to health coverage.

During fiscal year 2003, a total of 5.8 million children were enrolled in SCHIP at some point, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Medicaid is the largest provider of health care to children. Congress is currently discussing potential federal Medicaid budget cuts, which the AAP opposes.

"Children become the inadvertent casualties when Medicaid funding is cut," Dr. Berkowitz said. "They make up the majority of Medicaid recipients. We need to fully fund Medicaid and work to enroll more eligible children."

In 2003, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 11.4 percent of all U.S. children were uninsured, but children in poverty were more likely to be uninsured than all children, 19.2 percent compared with 11.4 percent. At the same time, the total number of uninsured Americans rose by 1.4 million to 15.6 percent, or 45 million.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed the "MediKids" Act, federal legislation which would create a single program designed to insure every child from birth through age 22. Look for the MediKids Act to be introduced in Congress this summer.

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