UNINSURED TEENS: Often Left Out of Medicaid, CHIP
States should work to extend eligibility for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program to uninsured adolescents, many of whom face serious health challenges, including pregnancy, HIV and other STDs, according to a study released yesterday by the Advocates for Youth's Center for Adolescent Health & the Law. Teens and young adults are uninsured at higher rates than other age groups, with more than 2.3 million uninsured adolescents eligible but not currently enrolled in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program. In addition, the study "Adolescents in Public Health Insurance Programs: Medicaid and CHIP" found that 1.3 million adolescents under age 19 are ineligible for the programs "either because states have not elected to cover them or their family income level exceeds federally allowed limits." The report found that 50% of states "are not yet doing all they could to establish Medicaid and CHIP eligibility levels that would reach as many adolescents as possible." According to the report, states should provide coverage for adolescents up to age 19 in families earning up to 200% of the federal poverty level. Because many adolescent have significant health concerns, including pregnancy, poor nutrition, HIV and other STDs, the report recommends that states establish a "comprehensive set of benefits that includes preventive care as well as diagnostic and treatment services." Although Medicaid requires CHIP to provide a benefit package, "many gaps remain in the provision of key benefits for adolescents," including family planning benefits. While many states include family planning services in their CHIP plans, the "comprehensiveness of these services for teens is not yet fully known," the report says. States' Medicaid and CHIP programs should include a range of sexual and reproductive health services and specialized services for adolescents with chronic illnesses and disabilities. In addition, they should assure confidentiality of adolescents' health information and provide complete information about laws related to minor consent and confidentiality (Center for Adolescent Health & the Law, "Adolescents in Public Health Insurance Programs: Medicaid and CHIP," 3/15). Abigail English, director of the Center for Adolescent Health & the Law, said, "American adolescents face serious health challenges, including high rates of suicide, pregnancy, HIV and other STDs, substance abuse, mental and emotional illness and poor nutrition. Each state has the responsibility to ensure that young people get all of the coverage they need" (Center for Adolescent Health & the Law release, 3/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.