Fewer uninsured children, more uninsured adults

Private coverage continued to decline in early 2009 as more children enrolled in public programs.

By Doug Trapp — Posted Jan. 13, 2010

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Fewer children were uninsured in the first six months of 2009 than in 2008, but the percentage of uninsured adults increased, according to early results from the 2009 National Health Interview Survey, released last month.

Public coverage helped reduce the percentage of uninsured children; 8.2% were uninsured in early 2009 when interviewed, down from 8.9% in 2008. The percentage of kids in Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program or other public health plans increased, from 34.2% in 2008 to 37.4% for the first six months of 2009. Meanwhile, the percentage of children with private coverage dipped two percentage points to 56.3%.

The shift in children's coverage was concentrated in the population of near-poor children, meaning those in families earning 100% to 199% of the federal poverty level. The percentage of near-poor kids who were uninsured at the time of the interview decreased to 11.6% in 2009, down from 15.6% in 2008.

The survey -- conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- offers a slightly different picture than U.S. Census Bureau estimates of the uninsured. The NCHS survey compiles estimates of the number of people who are uninsured when interviewed, for part of the last year, and for more than a year. Census Bureau totals include only those uninsured at the time of the survey. The NCHS survey is based on a sample of 32,694 people, about 20,000 fewer than the Census Bureau's sample.

NCHS authors cautioned that the partial results for 2009 are probably less accurate than those for a full year.

Adults have not fared as well as children when it comes to health insurance coverage. The percentage of uninsured adults younger than 65 climbed to 20.7% at the beginning of last year, up from 19.7% in 2008. Each category of uninsured saw an uptick: at the time of the interview; for part of the year; and for more than a year.

A much higher percentage of adults than children are uninsured. Adults under 65 were almost twice as likely as children in 2009 to be uninsured for part of the year, the survey found. Adults also were almost three times as likely as children to be uninsured for more than a year.

The report, "Health Insurance Coverage: Early Release of Estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, January-June 2009," is available online (link).

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