Baton Rouge – A recent study of 10,000 households for the Department of Health indicates the number of children without health insurance has declined. An analysis of the study points to the Louisiana Children’s Health Insurance Program as a key factor in the reduction. According to the survey, 21.1 percent of Louisiana residents between the ages of 19 and 65 are uninsured, but for those under age 19, only 11.1 percent are without health care coverage.
The telephone survey was conducted between June and September by the Public Policy Research lab at Louisiana State University. The lab is made up of researchers from the E.J. Ourso School of Business and the Manship School of Mass Communication Riley Center for Media and Public Affairs.
Although historically there have been fewer uninsured children than adults, the 11.1 percent of uninsured children (in all income levels) is an improvement from earlier years when the rate was as high as 21.9 percent in Louisiana (see chart).
For children under age19 in families who earn less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, the survey found there are an additional 77,500 (12.9 percent) who remain uninsured. These are children who are currently eligible for LaCHIP. When compared to earlier Census data compiled by the Kaiser Foundation, this continues a downward trend. In 2001, the rate was 21.7 percent, it was 29.9 percent in 2000 and for the average of the years1997 through 1999, the rate was 31.6 percent.
Since LaCHIP was implemented in November 1998, there have been 295,635 more children enrolled in Medicaid or LaCHIP. As of Nov. 30, there were 610,906 children under age 19 with publicly funded health care coverage. This is almost double the 315,271 children who were covered under Medicaid before LaCHIP and its aggressive outreach efforts began.
"Our survey is the most comprehensive survey ever done to determine the extent of the uninsured problem in Louisiana," said LDH Secretary David W. Hood. "Although we have yet to complete a full analysis of the results, several points are obvious. First, with LaCHIP, we have succeeded in providing health care coverage to those who need it most, our children. Second, there is still much work to be done to provide coverage to adults."
The estimated number of adults in Louisiana who lack health coverage is more than 561,000 people. Of this number, 402,000 are estimated to have annual incomes less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
Hood said that during the most recent legislative session, LDH was successful in getting the authority to pursue programs that will help address adults who still lack health care coverage.
"We are designing a Health Insurance Flexibility and Accountability waiver from the federal government that will allow us to provide coverage to many low-income, uninsured adults," added Hood. "Once approved, we will have the ability to use state and federal Medicaid funds to help low-income uninsured adults pay for private health insurance premiums, including employer-sponsored insurance."
Ron Young, PhD, DHH’s director of financial research and planning, said this study should provide a very accurate view of the extent of the uninsured problem in Louisiana.
"When conducting a survey, one basic question has to be, ‘How well does the sample size represent the whole population?’ Due to the number of households sampled, and to the method used, this survey should provide accurate results. It is my belief that we now have the most reliable information available when dealing with the uninsured problem," Young said.