Friday, August 05, 2005

Louisiana's uninsured children

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute recently released a report documenting the number of uninsured children in the United States. See press release about the report here. Titled "Going Without: America's Uninsured Children," the report finds "One-third (32.9 percent) of uninsured children in America went without medical care for an entire year... Conversely, nearly 88 percent of their insured counterparts received care during the same period." The Washington Post reported findings and highlighted the good news saying "The number of children with medical insurance is increasing across the country, thanks to outreach efforts and streamlining of government eligibility requirements." So, how about Louisiana? According to the new report %13.6 of Louisiana's children are uninsured. That translates into more than 160,000 youngters without health insurance. Fortunately, 62% of those children received medical care anyway -- that's almost 47,000 kids. It's wonderful kids can get medical care in Louisiana even without health insurance and it's absolutely the right thing for medical professionals to do. But the expense of treating uninsured children is absorbed by everyone and the current system is simply not sustainable. By far the most frustrating part of Louisiana's child health insurance gap is that there's a program designed specifically to provide health care to those children. LaCHIP is supposed to help fill that gap. As Louisiana's Agenda for Children noted last December, "The lack of affordable, quality health care coverage is a major issue in America today and the state of Louisiana continues to have one of the highest rates of uninsured citizens in the nation... Health coverage for children is an important link to education and therefore a link to alleviating poverty." Poverty. Education. Health. There's no escaping the connection. All the evidence points to Louisiana's need to address these issues and it's obvious none of them can be addressed in isolation. A poverty summit, regional health care committees and school accountability programs so far haven't made much of a dent in the state's most important indicators. Of course, all this says a great deal about the state's priorities. So here's a question for Louisiana's economic development gurus: If the state isn't willing to invest in its most important resource -- human capital (in this case, children), how can it reasonably expect outsiders to come do it for them?