Jobs and Health Coverage for Kids

September 14th, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Yesterday’s Census data revealed the role that government programs played in offsetting at least some of the economic impact of the persistently weak economy.  For example, millions were lifted from poverty through Unemployment Insurance or nutritional support.

Here’s a look at another dimension of this problem/solution over a longer time period: the loss of health coverage for kids through their parents’ job and the increase in public coverage through Medicaid.

Source: Census Bureau

Most kids (0-18 year-olds) including my own, get health insurance coverage through their parents workplace.  But as employers have consistently shed such coverage, the share of kids covered by their parents’ plan has fallen by about 10 percentage points.

However, Medicaid’s coverage of children has expanded significantly over this period, mostly through the CHIP program.  As you can see, this source of kids’ coverage is up more than 14%.  In fact, the total share of children without health care coverage is actually down since 1999, from 12% to about 10%.

Source: Census Bureau

(Note—these data are annual snapshots—they don’t follow the same people over time so we can’t conclude that the same kids who lost coverage through their parents’ job are now re-covered by Mcaid.)

As CBPP’s director Bob Greenstein pointed out yesterday, the Census data revealed another way in which public policy was helping to promote higher coverage.

“…the new data suggest that the health reform law may already be having a positive effect on coverage; the requirement that health insurers cover adult dependent children up to age 26 likely contributed to the significant reduction in the number and percentage of young adults age 19-25 without health insurance between 2009 and 2010. This is the only age group of non-elderly adults for which the percentage without insurance declined between 2009 and 2010.”

No other advanced economy depends on employer-provided coverage to the extent that we do, and the stresses of that system, both on employer costs and on basic coverage, have been evident for years.  I recall a conversation with an executive of a Detroit auto manufacturer about the competitive disadvantage this created in their American factories versus their Canadian producers right on the other side of the border.

We should keep these dynamics in mind in ongoing budget talks where Medicaid cuts could well be on the table, despite the fact that pubic coverage is increasingly important for children.

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One comment in reply to "Jobs and Health Coverage for Kids"

  1. Dan Furlano says:

    So now you have gone from lets fix the health care industry and not just shift costs to lets shift costs.

    The fact is that if health care costs do not go down either we “all” need to share the costs or we just push people off the edge.