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More American children have health coverage than ever before. For everyone else, it’s gotten worse

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

For the past decade, the portion of Americans with health coverage has fallen steadily. But the kids? They’re doing alright.

The big dump of data from the US Census Bureau yesterday shows that a higher portion of Americans had health coverage in 2012 than in 2011, but it was a minor uptick: 84.6% as opposed to 84.3%. The overriding trend is that the number of uninsured Americans has been growing faster than the population at large.

That is, except for two age groups: children under 18 and those between 18 and 24. For both demographics, the portion of insured last year was the highest on the Census record: 91.1% and 74.7%, respectively. Why?

Medicaid and SCHIP

Though the number of children (those under 18) on private insurance plans has plummeted—especially during the recession as parents lost jobs and employer-sponsored coverage—massive growth in public programs has more than made up for it. In particular, Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (or SCHIP) have seen tremendous hikes in enrollment (pdf). Combined, these programs offer public coverage to children in low to moderate-income families.


In late 2010, the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, which allows children to stay on their parent’s insurance until age 26, took effect. Previously, the cutoff age was 19, or if the kid was enrolled in school, 22. The Census numbers show a corresponding spike in insured 18-24 year-olds in 2010 and 2011.

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