NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Kidcare Finds Few Takers

April 13, 1999

A claimed crisis in child health care led to the enactment of Kidcare, the $40 billion, five-year child health insurance entitlement begun in 1997. The administration and the Children's Defense Fund said that 10 million children in America had no health insurance, and the White House vowed to sign up five million of them by 2000.

So far, fewer than 500,000 have signed up, and that is because the children Kidcare seeks to help simply do not exist, says analyst Robert M. Goldberg.

  • Less than 4 percent of children under 18, or about 1.2 million, lack coverage for more than a year -- the rest are covered by health insurance most of the time.
  • Data from the National Health Interview Survey show that even among families with incomes of $10,000 a year or less, 97 percent of children get all the care they need.
  • Less than 2 percent cite lack of money or insurance as a reason for not getting care.

Thus in New York, for example, where a pre-existing state health- insurance programs for kids is now receiving Kidcare funding, the program has grown by barely 20,000, says the New York Daily News.

In reality, most kids are healthy to begin with, says Goldberg, and their parents often prefer to obtain needed care outside of entitlement programs -- at public health clinics, for example. Thus a recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research actually found that uninsured kids tended to be healthier than kids covered by Medicaid, regardless of income or race. Notably, low-income black and Hispanic children had more illness after they started using Medicaid than before.

Source: Robert M. Goldberg (Ethics and Public Policy Center), "Wag the Kids," Weekly Standard, April 12, 1999.


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