October 21, 2008 / 4:40 PM / 11 years ago

Many uninsured kids have parents with insurance

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than 2 million children in the United States who have no health insurance of any kind have at least one parent who gets employer-provided medical coverage, researchers said on Tuesday.

A customer leans against a pharmacy counter in a file photo. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

These parents typically get insurance through work that covers them but cannot afford the extra thousands of dollars that may be needed for a plan that also covers their children, the researchers wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“I think there’s been a myth that all uninsured children have uninsured parents, and so if we cover the parents we can cover the kids,” Dr. Jennifer DeVoe of Oregon Health & Science University, who led the study, said in an interview.

“In most cases the parents have insurance through work at reduced rate or no cost, but adding their family is unaffordable,” DeVoe added.

The Census Bureau said in August 8.1 million, or 11 percent, of children under 18 had no health insurance in 2007.

The researchers calculated that about 28 percent of these uninsured children — or about 2.3 million — had at least one parent with health insurance. Most are from low- or middle-income families, DeVoe said.

The high cost of health care and medical insurance and the large numbers of Americans who remain uninsured have been key issues in the U.S. presidential campaign this year.

The study found that children of single parents and children in Hispanic families were more likely than others to lack health insurance even if a parent is covered. It was also more likely in the South and West.

The study was based on data from 2002 to 2005 released by the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Carolyn Clancy, who heads the agency, said some of these uninsured children likely qualify for public coverage, but their parents may not be aware of their eligibility.

DeVoe said a short-term approach to address the problem would be to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program that provides public coverage for certain children in low- and moderate-income families.

President George W. Bush twice has vetoed bills that would have expanded the program.

The Census Bureau said 15.3 percent of Americans overall had no health insurance in 2007, meaning 45.7 million were uninsured in a country of about 300 million people.

Editing by Maggie Fox and Jackie Frank

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