Report on health insurance coverage of Iowa children shows gaps

The study also revealed that 80 percent of these uninsured Iowa children were eligible for either Medicaid or hawk-i, which is a state/federal program that provides insurance to children in low-income families. Almost six out of 10 uninsured children live in families earning less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level and could be eligible for Medicaid. For a family of four that annual income would be about $18,400 per year.

"One of the big policy implications is that we are not doing a very effective job enrolling children who are eligible for these health insurance programs," Damiano said. "Overall, we are doing better in Iowa than in other states, but we still are talking about a significant number of children who could be helped."

A U.S. Census Bureau Population Survey (1999-20001) showed that Iowa's rate of uninsured children is about half the national average and the fifth lowest among all states. However, with more education and outreach, it might be possible to cover about four out of every five currently uninsured children in the state.

In terms of unmet needs, the study pointed to a particular problem with dental care -- one in four children in Iowa has no dental insurance.

"Even one in five children who had Medicaid, which covers dental services, were stopped from getting dental care because of the lack of providers willing to take them," Damiano said. "It is important to improve this access."

Damiano said the study also showed other ways in which having insurance does not guarantee access to care. Parents who are not insured themselves or who do not routinely seek care for themselves may be less likely to seek or use insurance coverage for their children.

"Financial ability to pay for services is only one part of access to care. It's important to recognize that people perceive in different ways whether they or their children need care," Damiano said.

"It may be appropriate to cover families

Contact: Becky Soglin
University of Iowa

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