More American children leaving ranks of uninsured for health care

Sunday, July 14th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The percentage of American children without health insurance has dropped by more than one-fifth since 1997, largely because of a program that covers those in poor families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, the government reports.

The number of children lacking health insurance fell from 13.9 percent in 1997 to 10.8 percent in 2001, the Health and Human Services Department says in a report obtained by The Associated Press.

Health insurance coverage has improved for American adults as well, according to numbers compiled in the National Health Interview Survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of Americans without health insurance fell from 15.4 percent in 1997 to 14.1 percent in 2001 _ a change of under 10 percent.

White Americans are still more likely to have health insurance than minorities. The survey found that 10.3 percent of white Americans lacked health insurance in 2001 compared with 17.3 percent of blacks and 31.6 percent of Hispanics.

The study cited the success of a government insurance program for children of the working poor _ known as the State Children's Health Insurance Program or SCHIP _ as the reason for the improved children's numbers.

``Governors have turned SCHIP into a genuine success story, with healthier children all across America,'' said HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson.

Congress created the program in 1997 for children whose families earned too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford health insurance on their own.

According to state figures, about 4.6 million children received health coverage through the program at some point in 2001.

The report also found that the number of elderly Americans who receive flu vaccines, which had been on the rise from 1997 to 1999, continued to decline last year, largely because of delays in making the vaccine available.

Sixty-three percent of elderly Americans received flu vaccine in 2001, down from 64.3 percent in 2000 and 65.7 percent in 1999.