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State health insurance plan for kids closes racial gap in care

Golisano Children’s Hospital study proves benefit of Child Health Plus

Monday, June 06, 2005

The state’s health insurance program for children who are not covered by Medicaid or private insurance closes the racial gap in health care access and continuity, according to a study by Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong researchers. The study was released today in the Journal, Pediatrics.

Since 1997, the national program known as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) has provided health insurance to low-income children who are not eligible for Medicaid and do not have private coverage. Under the Federal law, states received grants of Federal dollars to help with costs of insurance expansions, and had several options for how to expand coverage for children using those dollars.  New York received approval to use the Child Health Plus, which was created in New York in 1991. 

The study of more than 2,500 children showed that although the program’s goal has not been to reduce racial or ethnic disparities, it has the potential to do so, said Laura P. Shone, MSW, Dr.PH.  Access -- having a usual place to go for care -- and continuity -- using the same place for all or most of their care – improved for all children but especially for minority children. The study comes at a time when state and federal budget constraints threaten the resources available to SCHIP programs.

“Program cutbacks would hit black and Hispanic children particularly hard. They’re more vulnerable at the time they enroll in the program, and they demonstrate the greatest improvements in access and continuity after enrolling in SCHIP.” she said.

Shone cautioned against seeing SCHIP as a panacea to health care problems among minorities. She said that health insurance alone cannot be expected to fix all that is broken in health care.  “Health insurance can help remove financial barriers to care, but we must continue to investigate and address needs that some children continue to have while enrolled in SCHIP.”

Background on SCHIP

To be eligible for the program, children’ must be 18 years old or younger, ineligible for Medicaid, not covered by private insurance and have family incomes of 230 percent of the federal poverty level or less. Monthly premiums range from $9 to $15 per children up to a maximum of $45 per family. At the time of the study in 2001, 32 managed care plans provided the state-defined benefitpackage and New York had 590,000 children enrolled in the program, making it the second-largest SCHIP program in the nation, with 18 percent of enrollees nationwide.

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