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More consumers rely on government programs to insure their kids

Health Care and Health Insurance
by Steve Bryson
More consumers rely on government programs to insure their kids
More consumers rely on government programs to insure their kids

Across the country, the rising cost of health insurance is leading many Americans to question how they can properly afford to get affordable care for themselves and their family members. One solution on which a growing number of people - even those with employer-sponsored coverage - have now landed on is to enroll children in government programs to help ensure their children in particular are able to get the treatments they need.

Between 2008 and 2013, there was a 20 percent jump in the number of kids from low- and middle-income families who got their health insurance as a result of enrollment in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program, rather than coverage their parents got through work, according to new research from PolicyLab at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, published in Health Affairs. The issue of "splitting coverage," as this trend is known, was most common among people making between 100 percent and 199 percent of the federal poverty level. That strata of consumer saw their rate of insuring kids via Medicaid or CHIP jump 31 percent, well above the national average.

The rising cost of coverage leads some parents to take drastic action.The rising cost of coverage leads some parents to take drastic action.

Other issues
In addition, 9.2 percent of kids who come from families making between 200 and 299 percent of the federal poverty level simply didn't insure their kids at all through the end of 2013, the report said. That number was up from just 6 percent five years earlier. It's quite likely that many of the people who allowed their kids to go uninsured lived in states where Medicaid and CHIP assistance programs were not expanded by state lawmakers.

"By 2013, working parents were contributing an average of $4,500 a year for family health coverage offered by their employers - I think that many families who were working to just keep food on the table simply could not afford that," said lead author Doug Strane, research associate at PolicyLab. "While the Children's Health Insurance Program and Medicaid are often considered programs for the unemployed, skyrocketing health care costs that are surpassing wage increases are making these programs essential to working families who want affordable, quality health insurance for their children."

Getting signed up
Meanwhile, many Americans are once again taking the chance to enroll their families and themselves in the state and federal exchanges for coverage in 2017, according to a report from CBS 12. However, the Better Business Bureau warns that some people may be targeted by scam artists at this time of year, as criminals potentially attempt to prey on consumers who don't have an intimate familiarity with how the marketplaces work. As such, the BBB advises consumers who are thinking of getting into the exchanges this year be aware that they are not supposed to receive unsolicited calls about their coverage, and to avoid giving away any critical information over the phone or via email.

With all this in mind, it's vital for health insurers to educate consumers about why they pay what they do for coverage and what's required of them under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on an ongoing basis. Better-informed consumers are in a position to make the best possible choices about their coverage going forward.



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