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Employer-Sponsored Coverage Continues to Decline in North Carolina

Raleigh, NC (September 16, 2011)-Action for Children North Carolina analysis of new U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey (CPS) data finds, despite a decade-long erosion of employer-sponsored coverage, the number of uninsured children in North Carolina has declined, thanks to investments in public health insurance programs like Medicaid and Health Choice.In 2000, more than six in ten North Carolina children were covered by their parents’ employer-sponsored health insurance plans; last year that number fell to less than five in ten. As high unemployment and economic hardship reduced families’ access to employer-sponsored health insurance, the share of children covered by public health insurance (including Medicaid and Health Choice) increased five percentage points to 34 percent in 2008-2010.

The number children without health insurance declined from an average of 260,000 in 2005-2007 to 235,000 in 2008-2010, although the uninsured rate remained statistically unchanged. On average, one in ten North Carolina children went without health insurance in 2008-2010-a figure that would have likely been worse had the state not invested in children’s health insurance. Nationally, 7.4 million U.S. children (10 percent) lacked health insurance during that time.

“While far too many of our children remain uninsured, these data highlight the success of North Carolina’s investments in Medicaid and Health Choice,” said Laila A. Bell, Director of Research and Data at Action for Children North Carolina. “As children and families lost access to affordable, employer-based health insurance, Medicaid and Health Choice played a critical role in absorbing coverage losses and providing children with access to the health care they need to remain healthy.”

While North Carolina’s uninsured rate remains among highest in the country, increased enrollment in Medicaid and Health Choice helped improve the state’s standing. For the three-year period before the recession (2005-2007) North Carolina tied Louisiana for the 9th highest rate of uninsured children; in 2008-2010 North Carolina’s rank was 14th.

Research shows children who have health insurance are more likely to access medical care, receive preventative care and are less likely to use the emergency room regularly or to live with chronic conditions that can become serious-and costly-when left untreated. They also experience academic benefits including improved attendance and academic performance.

One in four North Carolina children had a parent who lacked access to health insurance in 2008-2010. When parents lack access to health insurance the health and financial well-being of their entire family is compromised.  Parents who have health insurance are more likely to seek regular care for themselves and their children, while parents who lack access to health insurance may forego regular care resulting in preventative illnesses that impede their ability to care for their children.  These routine illnesses can threaten parents’ job security and jeopardize families’ financial stability.

“Parents’ access to health insurance has important implications for child health and well-being,” said Kathleen Clarke-Pearson, MD, Licensed Pediatrician and Board Member at Action for Children North Carolina. “As North Carolina moves forward with implementation of the provisions in the Affordable Care Act, more low- and middle- income parents in North Carolina will gain access to coverage and medical care.”

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