Updated: May 3, 2013 12:14PM
Originally published: July 24, 2006
There are more than 8 million children in this country who are not covered by health insurance. This tragedy is highlighted in a new report by eHealthInsurance, a leading source of policy information for individuals, families, and small businesses. The headline states that in some cities across America, health insurance for a child is more affordable than a night out for dinner. The report ranks the most affordable cities in the nation’s 100 largest for children and family health insurance options.
I’m writing this column in hopes that my readers will pass this information along to co-workers, employees, and other young and struggling parents. After all, if a child goes without medical care because of lack of insurance, it impacts the future of our economy as certainly as interest rates or gasoline prices.
Most states have programs to cover children of working parents who do not have health insurance. It’s easier to name states that don’t have SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance) programs: Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin. And the District of Columbia.
But there’s a catch: The family must have income of below a certain level -- roughly $32,000 a year -- to qualify for SCHIP programs. Earn more, and you lose the opportunity to be in the state plan. It’s a Catch-22.
Some states, like Illinois with 250,000 uninsured children, are creating new publicly funded programs to provide healthcare for children of the working poor, those who earn too much to qualify for traditional state Medicaid and SCHIP coverage.
An estimated 250,000 uninsured children live in Illinois. About half come from families that earn too much to qualify for KidCare. That’s why the new All Kids program will offer Illinois’ uninsured children health care that includes doctor’s visits, hospital stays, prescription drugs, vision care, dental care and medical devices like eyeglasses and asthma inhalers.
A family of four that earns between $40,000 and $59,999 a year will pay a $40 monthly premium per child, and a $10 co-pay per physician visit. The governor has said that the state will cover the expected $96 million annual cost of this benefit by creating efficiencies in how the state handles its Medicaid and other healthcare programs.
But while there is certainly room for states to step in to provide this type of coverage, the surprising news from the eHealthInsurance report is that there is plenty of affordable children’s health insurance coverage in the private market.
In fact, the ranking of top 10 most affordable cities for children’s health insurance coverage is headed by St. Louis, where it costs $29 a month to insure a 9-year-old child. Chicago ranks No. 20 with an average premium of $54.72 per month.
The average premiums quoted for a 9-year-old child’s plan in the top 10 cities ranged from $29.62 to $51.50 per month. But some of those plans had a deductible as high as $1,000. All of these quotes were generated online at www.eHealthInsurance.com.
For a working family with two or three small children, these monthly premiums are still a significant cost. But these are the same families who are being driven to bankruptcy and loss of their homes because of mounting, uninsured medical expenses.
So here’s a challenge to my readers who turn to this column expecting sophisticated advice about personal finance. Certainly there must be some family you come in contact with in your daily life -- maybe the next cab you step into, the next doorman you reward with a dollar, the person who cleans your office.
Clip and pass along
Clip this column and tell them there are health insurance resources available for them and their children. They should start with their state resources, especially the SCHIP plans for working parents.
In Illinois, that means going to www.AllKidsCovered.com for information and an application.
Then search online for private low-cost HMO and insurance alternatives at www.eHealthInsurance.com.
If you save one child from waiting for hours in an emergency room when an illness could have been prevented by regular care, or if you save one family from the desperation of bankruptcy caused by medical bills, you’ll have made a great contribution to our economy. And that’s The Savage Truth.
Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser. Distributed by Creators Syndicate.
Copyright © Terry Savage Productions