According to a new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, nearly 6 million American mothers under the age of 19 lack health insurance. The report's findings are based on data for 1999, the most recent year available.
Although nearly nine in ten uninsured mothers are members of working families, most lack access to affordable coverage through their job or a spouse's job. In addition, most working mothers, in order to qualify for publicly subsidized coverage such as Medicaid, must have an anuual income that puts them well below the poverty line.
The authors of the report — Jocelyn Guyer, Matthew Broaddus, and Annie Dude — point out that the U.S. has made significant progress in extending health-care coverage to children in low-income families through Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program. A comparable effort has not been made to insure the mothers of these children, however.
A growing number of states have started to address the problem by transforming their child health insurance programs into family-based programs that also cover low-income parents. The bipartisan legislation known as FamilyCare is about to be re-introduced in Congress and would encourage this trend by providing more federal funding to states through the SCHIP program.
"The budget Congress has just adopted sets aside some funds to address the problems of the uninsured," noted Guyer. "These funds could be used as a down payment for FamilyCare and thereby lead to a significant reduction in the number of uninsured mothers. Policymakers should act to make a substantial dent in this problem before Mother's Day next year."