Public health insurance underutilized

As many as 12 million U.S. citizens, half of them children, are eligible for public insurance programs but remain uninsured thanks to a number of surmountable barriers, a new report says.

Those who are eligible for programs like Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, but do not enroll, primarily are low-income, says the report released by the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation, a Washington, D.C-based think tank.

Many fail to enroll because they do not know how, are unaware that such programs exist, or fear being linked with a publicly-financed program.

“Understanding the Uninsured: Tailoring Policy Solutions for Different Subpopulations,” describes policy options for reaching the 47 million Americans who remain uninsured.

Those who are eligible for public assistance, but are not enrolled, theoretically are easiest to reach, says the report, which proposes solutions ranging from adopting automatic-enrollment methods to removing enrollment caps and simplifying the renewal process.

Yet current state-budget shortfalls make efforts to increase enrollment less tenable, even among the eligible, Nancy Chockley, president and CEO of the foundation, says in a statement.

And increasing enrollment in public-assistance programs under the current rules will not significantly reduce the ranks of the uninsured, given that fewer than a third of uninsured parents, and one in 10 uninsured adults without children, are eligible for these programs.

“What this report shows us is that reaching universal coverage is a very complicated proposition, but that we can get a quarter of the way there by getting more people who are eligible for public programs enrolled and we can make a lot of headway too by looking for subsidies for low-income childless adults and parents,” Chockley says.

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