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Enrollment in children's health program drops for first time, foundation says

Updated:
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Enrollment in the government health program for children of the working poor declined slightly in the second half of last year, the first drop in its seven-year history, according to a study released Friday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The largest decrease in the State Children's Health Insurance Program occurred in Texas, the result of cuts state lawmakers imposed to deal with a budget shortfall. Nearly 75,000 children lost coverage in Texas, the foundation said.

Other states with sizable drops in enrollment were Maryland and New York. About 23,000 children lost coverage in each state, although some continue to receive health care through Medicaid.

Nationally, there were 3.927 million children in SCHIP in December, down from the peak enrollment of 3.964 million children in June.

Enrollment declined in 11 states and Washington, D.C., enough to offset increases in 37 states. Other states where enrollment dropped were: Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Vermont and Wyoming.

Georgia and Illinois registered the largest increases in enrollment.

``The drop in SCHIP enrollment is a major setback when millions of uninsured children are eligible, but not yet enrolled in public coverage programs,'' said Diane Rowland, executive director of the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.

The federal and state governments share the costs of both Medicaid, which provides health care for the poorest families and children, and SCHIP, for children from working poor families. Since its creation in 1997, the children's program has been credited with removing millions of children from the ranks of the uninsured.

The foundation said the steep decline in Texas could worsen in coming months, when the state begins to cut off children whose insurance premiums are not paid and applies new limits on families' assets.
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