HHS Issues New Report Showing More American Children Received Health Insurance in Early 2002
For Release: Tuesday, December 31, 2002
Contact: NCHS Press Office (301) 458-4800
HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today released a new report showing that the percent of American children with health insurance continued to increase in the first half of 2002, meaning that a half million more children are now covered by insurance than in the previous year. The improvement comes as more children rely on public coverage for their health care, including the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) created in 1997.
“More and more children are getting the health care they need, thanks in large measure to our success in working with States to expand health coverage through the SCHIP program,” Secretary Thompson said. “We are giving governors the flexibility they need to continue to expand coverage to more children, and our strategy is paying off for children and parents alike.”
The new report comes from HHS’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which conducts an annual survey tracking health insurance and other health indicators for Americans.
The report shows that the percent of children (17 and under) without health insurance declined from 13.9 percent in 1997 to 9.8 percent in the first half of 2002. During this period, reliance on public programs for coverage was fairly constant between 1997 and 2000 at about 21 percent, but then rose to 23.4 percent in 2001 and jumped to 27.2 percent in 2002. As public coverage rose, the percent of children covered by private plans dropped from 67.1 percent to 64.5 percent from 2002 to 2001.
SCHIP is designed to help children without health insurance, many of whom come from working families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid but too low to afford private health insurance. There were 4.6 million children enrolled in SCHIP at some point during fiscal year 2001, the most recent year for which complete State data is available.
Overall, 14.2 percent of the population – 39.4 million Americans of all ages – were without health insurance coverage in the first half of 2002, about the same as in 2001, and down from 15.4 percent in 1997. Working-age adults were more likely than seniors or children to lack health insurance coverage, with 18.5 percent of those aged 18-64 without coverage. In early 2002, about one in three (30.6 percent) Hispanics lacked health insurance, a far greater percent than the non-Hispanic black population (16.4 percent) and non-Hispanic whites at 10.5 percent.
Lack of health insurance coverage is one of the health indicators covered by the quarterly early release of selected estimates from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), a household interview survey conducted annually by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. Findings for January – June 2002 should be considered preliminary.
Other indicators include influenza vaccination, pneumococcal vaccination, obesity, leisure-time physical activity, health status, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, HIV testing, having a usual source of medical care, failing to obtain needed medical care, and needing help with personal care.
The 2002 survey shows that over two-thirds of America’s seniors had received a flu shot in the past 12 months. Based on an examination of second quarter data, influenza vaccinations in 2002 increased over the same quarter in 2001 to reach the level achieved before delays in vaccine were experienced.
“Vaccinations are one of the most effective means of preventing disease,” CDC Director Dr. Julie L. Gerberding said. “We need to keep getting out the message that this is one of the best and easiest steps we can take to protect our health.”
Other highlights from the January – June 2002 data include:
- Some 22 percent of adults were current cigarette smokers, indicating a continued decline in smoking. More men (24.7 percent) than women (19.6 percent) are current smokers
- The percent of persons of all ages who have a usual place to go for medical care rose slightly from 1999 through 2001, but remained constant in early 2002. About 94 percent of children had a usual source of care; and young adults, ages 18-24, at 72 percent, were least likely to have a usual source of care in early 2002.
- In 2002, 4.5 percent of the population were unable to obtain needed medical care in the past year due to financial barriers.
- In early 2002, 6 percent of persons aged 65 and over relied on others for their personal care. Hispanic and non-Hispanic black elderly were more likely than non-Hispanic white elderly to have this need.