NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Many Low-Income Parents Are Uninsured

August 19, 1999

While the children of working poor parents receive health care coverage through Medicaid and child health programs in all but a few states, many parents lose Medicaid eligibility as their incomes and hours worked increase. Many work for employers who do not offer health insurance, or they are unable to afford unsubsidized group rates.

  • Nationwide, in 1997, 34.5 percent of working parents with incomes below 200 percent of the national poverty level ($27,300 for a family of three) were uninsured.
  • However, only 23 percent of unemployed poor parents were uninsured.
  • But 46 percent of working parents who earned less than 100 percent of the national poverty level were uninsured (see figure).

In the past, federal Medicaid law limited coverage to parents who were receiving welfare or who recently had left welfare, so states' hands were tied. A provision of the 1996 federal welfare law ended the requirement that Medicaid eligibility be based on welfare eligibility. As a result, states are able to provide working poor parents health care coverage. The federal government will provide states with matching payments that will finance 50 percent to 77 percent of the cost of the Medicaid expansion.

Since the provision's enactment, several states have already expanded coverage for the children of the working poor and are looking for ways to include their parents.

Source: Jocelyn Guyer and Cindy Mann, "Employed But Not Insured: A State-by State Analysis of the Number of Low-Income Working Parents Who Lack Health Insurance," February 9, 1999, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 820 First Street, NE, Suite 510, Washington D.C. 20002, (202) 408 1080.


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