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Nearly half of the children in the United States who are lacking health insurance live in the South, according to an analysis by the Southern Institute on Children and Families.

In a report released this month, the nonprofit Columbia, S.C.-based institute says that while 37 percent of all the nation's children live in the South, 46 percent of its 11.2 uninsured children live in the region. Of these 5.1 million uninsured Southern children, one-third are under age 6, the report says.

Texas has the highest number of uninsured children in the region--nearly 1.3 million, the report says.

Thousands of children throughout the region should be eligible for Medicaid coverage, the report says, but are not covered, most often because of procedural rather than income reasons.

Nearly three-quarters of the uninsured childen in the South live in families with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $23,140 for a family of three.

Former Gov. Richard Riley of South Carolina, the chairman of the institute's board, said "a particulalry troubling finding ... is that there are over 1.7 million Southern preschoolers who are uninsured and thus less likely to be able to access preventive and primary health care, a fact which does not bode well for school-readiness goals in the South.''

Under a grant from the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, the institute analyzed 17 Southern states and the District of Columbia using Census Bureau and other federal data.

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