Being without health insurance is not an enviable position. For some (a very small minority) it’s a conscious choice. For most, being uninsured is a result of finances and/or pre-existing medical conditions. For people with the most limited finances, state-funded programs provide free or reduced cost health insurance. But not everyone who is eligible to participate in these programs does so. Some might choose not to, but my own opinion is that many people just don’t know that they qualify or how to go about getting enrolled.
In the case of children – who aren’t able to make their own decisions about their health insurance or healthcare – I have long been in favor of states making more of a concerted effort to enroll eligible individuals. In Colorado, there are 100,000 children who are eligible for Medicaid or CHP+ but remain uninsured. The state is working to expand access to these programs, but getting those 100,000 kids (who already qualify) enrolled would make a good dent in the number of uninsured children in Colorado. Some states are taking a unique approach, and using the tax code to get eligible kids enrolled in the state health insurance program. While I can see the concern about forcing people to enroll in government-run health insurance, I fully support the efforts, and would like to see something similar in Colorado.
These are children we’re talking about. They don’t have a choice – they can’t go get their own health insurance. And if they’re sick or injured, their recovery (and their parents’ financial situation) can absolutely be impacted by the absense of health insurance.
Children who qualify for state-funded health insurance and are not currently insured aren’t realistic candidates for private health insurance. There’s a reason they don’t have health insurance, and usually it boils down to money. I think that using the tax system is a good way to educate parents who might not be aware that their kids qualify for coverage. These children aren’t likely to get health insurance from another source unless their family’s employment situation changes (in which case they could enroll in a different program and drop the state-funded health insurance). And given that they don’t have any other options, my vote is that state-funded health insurance is far better than being uninsured.
I found Joe Kristan’s article about using tax returns to get kids enrolled in health insurance programs in the Cavalcade of Risk, which Joe himself hosted at Tax Update Blog.