The United States Census Bureau released updated data for 2005 last week showing the percentage of uninsured children in Louisiana is below the national average.

The U.S. average for uninsured children is 11.2 percent and Louisiana is beneath this rate, with a 9.4 percent overall uninsured rate for children. This data reveals Louisian’s uninsured rate for kids continues to decline, despite the fact that nationally, the percentage of uninsured children has increased during the past year.

The report also looks specifically at uninsured children in low-income families, defined as families with incomes under 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Children in this income range are eligible for state health care coverage through either the Louisiana Children’s Health Insurance Program (LaCHIP) or traditional Medicaid.

The U.S. uninsured rate is 7.2 percent for children in this income range, while Louisiana’s rate is 5.4 percent. This ranks Louisiana 25th nationwide, tying with Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington and South Dakota.

“This statistic means that 24 states have a higher rate of uninsured kids in families with low incomes than Louisiana, which is particularly remarkable since our state has one of the highest rates of poverty, a leading indicator for uninsured status,” said Department of Health Secretary Dr. Fred Cerise.

Prior to the introduction of the LaCHIP program in 1998, according to the Census Bureau, Louisiana had one of highest rates of uninsured, low-income children in the nation, at approximately 31.6 percent.

“An immense amount of hard work has gone into reducing the rate of uninsured children in Louisiana, and these statistics show that we are well on our way to meeting Gov. Blanco’s challenge to find and enroll every eligible child,” Dr. Cerise said.

The 2005 Census data findings are consistent with the most recent Morgan Quitno State Health Care Rankings which indicate that the health factor in which Louisiana has made the greatest improvement is insurance coverage for children.

The numbers from the 2005 Census Bureau report validate the numbers in the 2005 Louisiana Health Insurance Survey, which also showed Louisiana decreased its rate of uninsured children in recent years. The Census Bureau’s data was collected in March 2006 but is based on the health insurance status of children in 2005 and thus only provides limited information relative to the impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.