Nearly 148,000 Pennsylvania children still lack health insurance, despite the commonwealth's longstanding goal of providing "universal coverage" for all documented children, according to a report issued today by Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC).
Data in The State of Children's Health Care in Pennsylvania – 2013 shows about 1 in 20 children in the commonwealth are uninsured, a statistic that has remained relatively unchanged in recent years. Ongoing discussions focused on providing health insurance coverage to more Pennsylvania adults could help accelerate efforts to cover more kids, said PPC President and CEO Joan Benso.
"Research shows us that children of low-income, uninsured parents are three times more likely to be uninsured themselves compared to children whose families have some type of coverage," Benso said. "In other words, insured parents are more likely to make sure their kids are covered, too. So policy discussions about covering more adults could bring good news for uninsured kids."
The report notes there are about 274,000 uninsured Pennsylvania parents, and about 131,000 of them would qualify for Medicaid if Pennsylvania were to expand coverage, an option being pursued by the majority of states. Rather than pursue Medicaid expansion, Gov. Tom Corbett has proposed using federal funds intended for expansion to enable uninsured Pennsylvanians to purchase health insurance on the private market. It is unclear how many uninsured parents would be eligible for coverage under the governor's proposal.
The report notes: "Whether Pennsylvania expanded Medicaid coverage to more low-income adults or implemented the governor's private market alternative to Medicaid expansion, either likely would have a ripple effect that could result in tens of thousands of currently uninsured children gaining coverage - a much-needed catalyst to keep Pennsylvania on track to covering all kids."
Even among children who are insured, there are health care challenges that need to be overcome, the report found. Of the approximately 1.3 million Pennsylvania children insured through Medicaid or Pennsylvania's Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP):
The report, the only one of its kind in the commonwealth, uses various health indicators to provide a data-driven snapshot of children's health care in Pennsylvania – its successes, limitations and challenges. The goal is to gauge whether Pennsylvania's children have access to the quality care they need to grow up healthy.
Ensuring the health of Pennsylvania's children is critical to the commonwealth's social and economic well-being. Healthy children have better school attendance and academic performance, meaning working parents are less likely to need unexpected time off and employers benefit from a more productive, cost-effective workforce.
This marks the second year PPC has published its "State of Children's Health Care" report, and it is the first year that comparative data has been available to gauge progress from year to year. A primary purpose of the report is to help Pennsylvania's state and federal policymakers identify areas where the commonwealth has made gains or needs to improve in children's health care, particularly as aspects of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) are implemented.