One in eight Colorado children are uninsured

by Lesley Politi on October 31, 2008

One in eight Colorado children are uninsured

Colorado has seventh-highest percentage of uninsured kids


For a few months, Johnny King has been like 170,000 other children in Colorado – uninsured.

Johnny, who typically is enrolled in the state’s Children’s Health Plan Plus program, or CHP+, has been without health insurance since July as his mom tries to renew her coverage.

“They (Salud) put me on a reduced payment plan today,” said Tamra King, Johnny’s mother, who brought her son to Salud Family Health Center in Fort Collins for a flu shot.

Colorado has the seventh-highest percentage of uninsured children in the nation, according to a study released Wednesday by Families USA, a nonprofit, non-partisan healthcare advocacy group.

One in eight, or 170,000 Colorado children, are uninsured, based on projections from the analysis of Census data between 2005 and 2007, the period analyzed by Families USA.

“The very cheapest group to insure is children,” said U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver, in a telephone news conference.

“There is absolutely no reason why the most powerful country can’t give health insurance to the poorest and children of the working poor.”

More than half of Colorado’s uninsured children come from low-income families who could qualify for Medicaid or CHP+ according to the report. A family of four that makes $3,622 monthly can qualify for CHP+, according to the CHP+ Web site.

And the majority – 93.9 percent – of uninsured children come from families where at least one parent works.

Sometimes families don’t know they’re eligible or face other obstacles to receiving healthcare, in addition to cost, said Gordan Thibedeau, executive director of the United Way of Larimer County.

Several years ago, the United Way and the Health District of Northern Larimer County teamed up to try to get more families enrolled in a health insurance plan, Thibedeau said.

“There were a lot of things that make it difficult for families to be enrolled even if they were eligible, if they knew they were eligible,” said Thibedeau. “If you’re working, when exactly are you going to go do this enrollment?”

Even with programs such as CHP, the expansion of which was vetoed last year by President George W. Bush, and Medicaid, many children fall through the cracks.

“I’m not an expert,” Thibedeau said. “But because we have more and more children that don’t have insurance, then it would seem to me there is a failure somewhere.”

In 2007, more than 84,600 children in Colorado received their health insurance coverage through CHP+.

Still, inadequate or no health care comes at a price.

Children who don’t have access to adequate health and dental care can see their education suffer, said Nancy Weber, health services coordinator for Poudre School District.

“As children are dealing with any kind of condition or pain because of need of health care, whether it be physical, dental or mental, it definitely affects students’ attendance,” Weber said. “The ability to attend to material, their energy level or their motivation to do well are all affected.”

Chronic absenteeism, especially in primary grades, can significantly affect a child’s academic achievement, according to a study released by the National Center for Children in Poverty.

According to the study, children missing 10 percent or more of kindergarten scored five points lower on achievement tests than did those who missed 3 percent of their kindergarten year.

Parents are also more likely to not seek medical attention when a child complains of a small medical problem such as a sore throat or the flu, DeGette said.

“If they get an earache their parents will wait until it’s far, far advanced and then take them to the emergency room,” DeGette said.

In that case, people with insurance often pick up the emergency-room tab through higher health insurance premiums.

“Ultimately we all pay for that,” Thibedeau said.


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