NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 2, 2008

One in four uninsured Americans eligible for Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) fail to take advantage of those programs, according to a new study from the National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM).

The researchers found that 12 million -- out of the estimated 47 million Americans who are uninsured at some point during the year -- could receive public health coverage, but fail to do so. 

Other major findings:

  • The majority of the 12 million who qualify for Medicaid and SCHIP but do not take part are from low-income families.
  • This includes 64 percent, or 6.1 million, of the nation's uninsured children.
  • Some 2.4 million childless adults are eligible for coverage.
  • Some 3.6 million uninsured parents are also eligible for coverage.

It's shocking to see the number of people who are not taking part in these programs but could do so, says Jan Shoenman, director of research and development at the NIHCM. 

Providing variety in the types of coverage available is essential to get more people to sign up, says Greg Scandlen, director of Consumers for Health Care Choices.  For example, a 24-year-old Latino man does not see the need for in-vitro fertilization coverage or psychiatric or social work coverage.  Yet, these are all the things they are required to have coverage for.

Scandlen says one program that would be attractive to the uninsured is health savings accounts (HSAs), because they minimize premium payments and put money aside for the individual's future health care needs.  Scandlen also says people should be able to buy health insurance policies across state lines.

Source: Aricka Flowers, "Government Programs for the Uninsured Are Poorly Targeted, Ill-Designed, Not Working," Heartland Institute, July 2008.


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