NU Online News Service, Aug. 21, 10:41 a.m. – The State Children?fs Health Insurance Program helped cut the percentage of children who lack insurance between 1997 and 2001, but the percentage of working families covered by employer-sponsored health insurance remained flat, according to a new study by the Center for Studying Health System Change, Washington.

Researchers at the health policy think tank found that the proportion of uninsured children in low-income working families fell to 15.5% in 2001, from 20.4% in 1997.

But the researchers also found signs that public children?fs health insurance programs were crowding out employer-sponsored coverage. The proportion of children with working parents who were enrolled in public programs increased to 31.3%, from 21%, but the proportion who were enrolled in plans sponsored by their parents?f employers fell to 51%, from 55.4%.

When Congress created the SCHIP system in 1997, it tried to put safeguards in place to keep SCHIP coverage from crowding out employer-sponsored coverage. But the latest figures suggest SCHIP coverage crowded out employer-sponsored coverage for about 600,000 to 1 million children, according to the health system change researchers.

The researchers also looked at overall access to and use of employer-sponsored coverage. Although the proportion of working families with access to employer-sponsored coverage increased to 84% in 2001, from 82.7% in 1997, the proportion of families with access that actually decided to participate in the employer plan fell to 90%, from 90.1%.

The proportion of members of working families that were able to use individual health insurance to fill in the gaps fell to 3.7%, from 4.5%.

The full report is available on the Web at http://www.hschange.org/CONTENT/463/