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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The percentage of children in South Dakota without health insurance more than halved between 2008 and 2012, according to a national report released Thursday.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report shows the segment of uninsured children fell from 9.2 percent to 4.2 percent during that period. The 2012 percentage translates to one in 24 children still lacking health care coverage. The study is based on the most recent data available from the American Community Survey conducted annually by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The report said the decline of uninsured children in the state compares favorably to the national average, which fell from 9.7 percent to 7.5 percent in 2012. No state showed an increase in its percentage of uninsured children during the timeframe used in the report. The percentage of children without insurance varied dramatically among states, with a high of 17.0 percent in Nevada to a low of 1.4 percent in Massachusetts.
While more boys and girls obtained health care benefits between 2008 and 2012 — during the Great Recession and the economic recovery — how children obtained their coverage has changed.
In South Dakota, 24.1 percent of children received public health insurance compared to 29.1 percent in 2012, while the percentage of children covered under employer-sponsored held mostly steady at 66.7 percent in 2008 and 66.8 percent four years later.
Officials with the state's Division of Insurance and the Department of Social Services did not return messages seeking comment on the changes.
"Employer-sponsored coverage has been going down over time and the downturn in the economy hasn't helped in that regard," said Lynn Blewett, director of the State Health Access Data Assistance Center, which compiled the report. "In South Dakota, what was interesting to me when I looked at this is that the percent of kids that had private health insurance through an employer was really stable, where the rest of the country there's more of a drop in employer-sponsored coverage."
Among other findings, the report shows that minority children in South Dakota made the greatest gains in insurance coverage. As of 2012, only 9 percent of non-white children were without insurance compared to 21.9 percent in 2008.
The study was conducted before the implementation of President Barack Obama's federal health care law. Blewett says she expects the law's requirements to further reduce the number of uninsured children.
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