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Health insurance for kids
Many children are uninsured unnecessarily. Health insurance can be cheap, even free for some families.
Families and finances

Keeping kids covered -- with health insurance

Kids need and deserve a few essentials to make sure they get the best start possible: food, clothing, shelter and a good education, of course. But they also need dental and medical care to ensure that they grow into healthy, productive adults.

Unfortunately, millions of children have no health insurance coverage and as a result don't get the kind of health care they need.

In 2007, according to the Census Bureau, some 8.1 million children had no insurance in the United States.

Though free or low-cost health insurance is available to kids in the poorest families, it's more difficult for parents with higher earnings to get coverage for their kids.

Insurance options for ...
Low-income families
Most free or subsidized help is available to children whose parents earn slightly above the poverty level.

A program called the State Children's Health Insurance Plan was created in 1997 to offer health insurance coverage for the children of low-income families. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, SCHIP was originally created as an adjunct to Medicaid.

In February, the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 was signed into law. CHIPRA expanded eligibility and increased funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Plan.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services and the CHIP statistical enrollment data system, in 2008 about 7.4 million kids were enrolled, up from around 7 million the previous year.

With the signing of the reauthorization act, regulators hope to enroll another 4 million kids in the program. Most of them are already eligible for the program but just haven't signed up.

Eligibility varies from state to state but "most states cover people up to the range of 200 (percent) to 250 percent of the poverty level, which in 2009 is about $36,620 to $45,775 for a family of three," says Sarah Lueck, policy analyst with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

"But some states cover kids that are at less than that and some states go beyond 250 percent of poverty level," she says.

Parents who have no health insurance for their kids should contact their state health insurance program to find out more about the eligibility requirements in their state.

-- Posted: July 21, 2009
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