Advancing Health Insurance Stability and Quality for Kids

Despite significant state and federal efforts to cover kids, including the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, 9.2 million Americans under the age of 19 (12.1 percent of all Americans) went without health insurance in 2001, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Such a lack of coverage can have serious clinical and financial consequences for children and their parents, such as children not receiving critical preventative care, including immunizations. At the same time, even children with coverage don’t necessarily receive high quality care. To cite one example, immunization rates for children two or younger in 2000 were below the Childhood Immunization Initiative’s goal of at least 90 percent.

How extensive are these problems? What can states and the federal government do to promote better quality of care and more extensive coverage? Are there new proposals to bolster coverage and quality and if so, how effective would they be in insuring the most children at the lowest cost? What kind of reception will such proposals get in state capitols and on Capitol Hill in the near future and in the longer term?

To help examine these questions and others, the Alliance for Health Reform and the Commonwealth Fund cosponsored a December 8, 2003 briefing. Speakers represented different viewpoints: Ed Schor of The Commonwealth Fund; Sarah Shuptrine of the Southern Institute on Children and Families; Mary Kennedy of the Minnesota Department of Human Services; and Cindy Mann of Georgetown University. Ed Howard of the Alliance moderated the discussion.