Policy Priorities

Policy Priorities image of kids

Uninsured Children

To survive and thrive all children need access to comprehensive, affordable health coverage that is easy to get and to keep.  Unmet health and mental health needs can result in children falling behind developmentally and having trouble catching up, physically, emotionally, socially and academically.  Poor children and children of color have worse access to health care and as a result, often start life several steps behind their wealthier and healthier White peers.  

Thanks in large part to Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the number of uninsured children today is at a historic low.

  • Since the enactment of CHIP in 1997, the percentage of children who are uninsured has dropped 40 percent from 14.8 peorcent to 8.9 percent.
  • Between 2011 and 2012, 441,000 children gained health coverage.
  • In FY2012, more than 44 million children under age 19 -- 57 percent -- were covered by Medicaid or CHIP.
  • Almost half of all births in America are covered by Medicaid, although the proportion varies significantly by state.

Despite these improvements, 1 in 11 -- 7.2 million -- children under 19 remained uninsured in 2012.  

  • Children of color are more likely to uninsured than White children.  In 2012, 1 in 7 Hispanic children and 1 in 11 Black children were uninsured, compared to 1 in 15 White children.
  • Over 90 percent of uninsured children are U.S. citizens.
  • Nearly 90 percent live in families with at least one working member and nearly half lived in the South.
  • Uninsured children are more likely than insured children to have unmet medical needs, such as untreated asthma, diabetes or obesity.
  • Uninsured children are more likely than insured children to perform poorly in school; in contrast, enrolling children in health coverage has been associated with greatly improved school performance.

By preserving and strengthening Medicaid and CHIP and creating new coverage options for parents, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will provide access to health coverage for 95 percent of all children in America.  However, eligibility for coverage does not guarantee enrollment.

  • Nearly 70 percent (68.9 percent) of all uninsured children under age 19 were eligiblible for but not enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP in 2011.  More than a third of all eligible but uninsured children live in three states -- California, Florida and Texas.
  • The ACA gives states new tools to make it easier for chidlren and their parents to get and keep coverage, but the ease of enrollment and income eligibility levels vary widely, creating a lottery of geography for children's health coverage.