North Dakota has made progress in reducing the number of children without health insurance, a new report says.
The state saw one of the biggest declines in the percentage of uninsured children since the start of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a national group that follows health trends.
Arkansas saw the greatest drop with nearly 60 percent of uninsured children from 1997 to 2004 of any state and the District of Columbia, the study found. Maine followed with 50 percent, Alabama with 47 percent, South Carolina with 46 percent and North Dakota with 44 percent.
The study called “The State of Kids’ Coverag,” was released by the foundation in conjunction with the kickoff of a nationwide campaign to enroll children in public health insurance programs. The foundation says about seven in 10 uninsured children are eligible for low cost or free health care coverage, but their parents may not realize it.
Health officials say children without health insurance frequently miss preventive care, including sight and hearing tests, that may lead to more serious health problems.
The State Children’s Health Insurance Program uses a mix of state and federal funds to subsidize health insurance for families who are not eligible for Medicaid but cannot afford private insurance.
Despite such programs, about 8 percent of children in North Dakota lack health insurance, said Jeana Peinovich, outreach coordinator for the state’s Covering Kids and Families organization.
That compares to about 14 percent nationally, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s report shows.
Peinovich estimates about 70 percent of the 12,000 children in North Dakota without health insurance are eligible for free or low-cost insurance programs.
“Our goal continues to be to build awareness to those families and to make it as simple as possible to apply for coverage,” she said.
Nationwide, 2 million fewer children were uninsured from seven years ago when Congress created the federal program, although the number of Americans without health insurance has risen. Since 1997, the number of children in the U.S. enrolled in public insurance programs rose 31 percent while the number of children insured through private programs declined by 5 percent.
The State Health Access Data Assistance Center at the University of Minnesota produced the report, using statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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