SOURCE: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, news release, Feb. 11, 2016
THURSDAY, Feb. 11, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Despite a significant increase in the number of American children with health insurance, many still lack coverage, a new study reveals.
From 2013 to 2014, the number of uninsured children fell from 5.9 million to 4.9 million. In 2013, 7.5 percent of youngsters were uninsured, compared to 6.3 percent in 2014 -- a 16 percent decrease.
While the findings show progress, nearly 5 million Americans under age 19 still lack health insurance, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report prepared by University of Minnesota researchers.
"Despite the politicking around health policy lately, I think we can all agree that coverage for kids is essential for their healthy development," Kathy Hempstead, the foundation's director of coverage issues, said in a news release from the organization.
"The last year has shown continued progress in expanding coverage to children and the reduction of differences by race, ethnicity and income, but there is more work to be done," she added.
The percentage of uninsured children fell sharply in 23 states and no states had significant increases, the investigators found.
The states with the largest declines in uninsured children were Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Nevada and Rhode Island.
Nearly half of the 4.9 million uninsured children are in six states: Texas (880,000), California (550,000), Florida (410,000), Georgia (210,000), Arizona (180,000), and New York (160,000).
Of these six states, four had the largest decrease in the number of children without coverage from 2013 to 2014: California (down 210,000), Texas (down 95,000), Florida (down 87,000), and Georgia (down 53,000).
Two states -- Massachusetts and Vermont -- had fewer than 2 percent of children who were uninsured. In three states, more than 10 percent of children lacked coverage: Alaska (12.3 percent), Texas (11.8 percent), and Arizona (10.5 percent).
Nationwide, decreases in rates of uninsured children were highest among Hispanics, non-whites and low-income families. In the past, all three groups were most likely to be uninsured, the study authors said.
In 2014, just over 34 percent of children were enrolled in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, while 59 percent had private coverage, the findings showed.
"It's likely the case that more children gained coverage as eligible parents signed up for free or low-cost health insurance, and we're likely to see that trend continue," Lynn Blewett said in the news release. Blewett is director of the University of Minnesota's State Health Access Data Assistance Center, which compiled the report.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more about health plan coverage for kids.