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November 29, 2011
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MEDIA CONTACT Name Elaine Cunningham Position Outreach Director, CDF–MN Phone 651-855-1176 Cell 651-335-3236 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
November 29, 2011
ST. PAUL, MINN– Minnesota was the only state to see a significant increase in the uninsurance rate for children in the past three years, according to a new report by Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families. Nearly 11,700 fewer children had health insurance in 2010 than in 2008.
“It’s surprising to see a state like Minnesota losing ground in its efforts to protect children’s health care,” said Joan Alker, co-executive director of the Georgetown University research institute. “Minnesotans are not used to seeing their state on the bottom of the list but I’m sure they will be able to overcome this setback and get back up to the top as state leaders have demonstrated a strong commitment to children’s health care coverage in the past.”
Nationally the report found good news for children in most other states as the number of uninsured children decreased by 14 percent from 6.9 million in 2008 to 5.9 million in 2010. The progress is due to the success of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program that have continued to fill the void created by a decline in employer-based health insurance, a high unemployment rate and the increasing cost of private health insurance.
“Health insurance premiums have increased much faster than wages and now, on average, cost about *17% of median household income in our state,” said Amy Crawford, director of Children’s Defense Fund–Minnesota. “Those costs are putting health insurance out of reach for more and more Minnesotans. We need to strengthen our public health coverage programs like Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare to make sure children are not falling through the cracks.”
In 2009, Minnesota did take steps to improve access to MinnesotaCare (a low-cost premium health care program) by passing legislation that removed significant enrollment barriers for some children. Specifically, the legislation allows children under 200 percent of the federal poverty line** to enroll in MinnesotaCare without a four-month waiting period, without consideration of other insurance and without a premium payment. These three requirements have long been identified as obstacles for families who are otherwise eligible for MinnesotaCare but have been especially burdensome for families in this economy who have experienced job loss and rapidly rising premium costs for employer-sponsored insurance. In June of this year, Minnesota finally received federal approval to enact the changes to MinnesotaCare. The state, however, has yet to implement the approved changes that would allow an estimated 16,000 additional children to have access to health insurance through MinnesotaCare by 2015.
State Representative Paul Thissen (DFL-Minneapolis) worked to pass the legislation in 2009. Acknowledging the newly released Georgetown study, Thissen said that it’s important to continue working to provide quality health care to Minnesota children.
“Minnesotans can agree that children should be able to see a doctor when they are sick and eliminating barriers to health insurance coverage is a positive step forward,” said Thissen. “There is more work ahead. Too many families and children have fallen behind during this recession and we need to make it a priority to support an economic recovery that lifts up all families and children in Minnesota.”
The Georgetown report also uncovered disparities in insurance rates among demographic groups across the country. Hispanic and Native American children remain disproportionately uninsured, older children are less likely to be covered than younger children and uninsured rates are higher for children living in families earning below 50 percent of the poverty line.
“It is important that all children have access to affordable health insurance, especially those from low-income families who have lost jobs in the current economy,” says Crawford. “Living in poverty harms children’s health and well-being. We are concerned that the report’s findings show Minnesota has lost ground in making this goal a reality for vulnerable children.”
According to Crawford, the state hasn't announced when it will implement the changes to MinnesotaCare. Some expect them next summer, but Crawford says she'd like to see the process fast-tracked. “Now is the time for Minnesota to expedite the implementation of the MinnesotaCare changes passed in 2009 and approved this summer by the federal government,” she says. “As we look for opportunities to maximize our impact, these changes represent a win-win investment that will allow more children to be fully prepared for school, work and life success.”
The Children's Defense Fund Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. The Minnesota office opened in 1985 and is a state office of the national CDF, a private, nonprofit organization supported by foundation and corporate grants and individual donations.
*(State Insurance Premium Data – Commonwealth Fund Report)
**200 percent of the federal poverty line equals $44,700 gross annual income for a family of 4 in 2011.
Name Elaine Cunningham
Position Outreach Director, CDF–MN