The number of insured children in Illinois is on the rise, according to new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2007-2008, 6.5 percent of the state's children were uninsured, compared with 8.1 percent in 2006-2007 and 10.5 percent nationwide.
The trend can be attributed to the state's All Kids health insurance program, according to an analysis by Voices for Illinois Children, an organization that works with families, communities and policy makers to ensure the well being of all Illinois children.
"This is a very, very promising development that we've seen the numbers change at the level they have," says Kathy Ryg, president of Voices for Children.
All Kids was first developed in 2006 to provide health insurance for children on a sliding scale based on income. More than half of the state's uninsured children come from working and middle class families, according to the All Kids Web site, which is why the program strives to offer lower rates than the private market. A family of four that makes between $42,000 and $63,000 a year, for instance, would pay a $40 monthly premium for each child and a $10 doctor visit co-pay.
"There's an opportunity for every child to qualify for a form of health insurance," Ryg says of All Kids.
While Ryg is encouraged by the increase in Illinois children who have some type of health insurance, she hopes more awareness will bring the number closer to 100 percent. With unemployment rates on the rise, more families may lose employment-based coverage, making awareness even more important.
The application is a simple, one-step process, which parents can access at www.allkids.com, community health centers and many school health centers, Ryg says. But after this first step, families can still have difficulty finding care. "One of the challenges is that while we can enroll the children pretty easily through a one-stop-shop application to participate, access to the doctors who participate is a challenge," she says. "There's definitely work to be done."
Still, Ryg says the program is a positive step in increasing coverage, which translates to cost savings for everyone. With programs like All Kids, children receive early screening and prevention and parents don't have to put off doctor visits until it is an emergency, Ryg says. "That reduces the health care costs for all of us."
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