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The percentage of uninsured Utahns rose to 11.9 percent in 2006, with the largest increases occurring primarily among children, according to the state Department of Health.

An estimated 306,500 Utahns lacsked health insurance coverage during calendar year 2006, up 13,700 from the previous year. The number of uninsured children under 18 saw a 4.7 percent increase from 2005 to 2006, the department reported.

During the recent legislative session, state lawmakers appropriated $4 million to allow another 12,000 children to be insured through the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, starting in July. CHIP is a state insurance plan for children whose parents' income is under 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

"It's disconcerting that we're seeing increases with children," said Judi Hillman, executive director of the Utah Health Policy Project, a research and advocacy group for the uninsured. "I also think it's unfortunate that we have to wait until July for CHIP to reopen."

Her organization and others will be working with families to prepare them to sign their children up for CHIP when the enrollment period begins July 1. She believes the spots will go fast.

CHIP started in 1998 in Utah, and about 15,000 children are currently enrolled.

Over the last decade, Utah's uninsured population grew at an average annual rate of 6.9 percent, compared with 2.3 percent for the state's population growth rate.

Although last year's growth - from 11.6 percent uninsured to 11.9 percent - was smaller than in previous years, more needs to be done, officials said.

"The increase was not as large, but we're still going in the wrong direction," said David Sundwall, the health department's executive director.

Those at greater risk of having no insurance: children, adults without a high school diploma and Latinos.

One of the reasons for the increase is that fewer employers are offering health insurance, due to the cost, the health department said.

"Kids are the first victims because small companies drop family insurance for economic reasons," and that affects children, said Hillman, who believes the state has closer to 400,000 uninsured Utahns, far exceeding the state's statistics.