Utah ranks 50th in having kids insured

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Utah ranks 50th in the nation when it comes to getting children into health insurance coverage programs, according to an Urban Institute report released Friday.

The participation rate among low-income children eligible for existing programs like the Children's Health Insurance Program and Medicaid was the second lowest in the nation at 66.2 percent, only ranking ahead of Nevada, at 55.4 percent.

"We still have much to do to reduce our rate of uninsured kids," said Korey Capozza, health policy analyst for Voices for Utah Children, a statewide child advocacy organization.

Utah can catch up with other states by focusing outreach on its most vulnerable neighborhoods and streamlining an inefficient application process, which all too often is an impediment to coverage, Capozza said.

The report's findings were derived from 2008 Census data for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. They do not reflect the large increase in enrollment that has materialized since the economic downturn, a news release said.

The report also found wide disparity in the percentage of uninsured kids between counties and neighborhoods. For example, in Salt Lake City, the uninsured rate was 27.6 percent in 2008, while in neighboring Davis County, it was just 5.8 percent.

Such data should inform the state's outreach efforts and help concentrate attention on the highest-risk areas, Capozza said.

Although health coverage is available to children in families with incomes up to about $45,000 per year in nearly every state, an estimated 5 million uninsured children are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP but not enrolled, Capozza said.

"We hope that Utah will take up this challenge and help our nearly 55,000 uninsured kids find health coverage through programs like CHIP, Medicaid and Utah's Premium Partnership for Health Insurance — a subsidized private health insurance option," Capozza said.

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com

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