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Underinsured Children Missing Out on Immunizations

Patchwork payment system denies some children access to publicly purchased vaccines

TUESDAY, Aug. 7 (HealthDay News) -- The near doubling of the recommended number of childhood vaccinations, the increased cost of fully vaccinating a child and changes in the medical insurance system have created new gaps in immunization coverage, researchers report in the Aug. 8 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Grace M. Lee, M.D., of Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care in Boston, and colleagues conducted the study by interviewing immunization program managers across 48 U.S. states.

In 70 percent of states, underinsured children were ineligible to receive publicly purchased meningococcal conjugate in the private sector, while those in 50 percent of the states were ineligible to receive pneumococcal conjugate vaccines. Citing lack of federal and state funding, 10 states changed their policies to restrict access to selected new vaccines for underinsured children.

"Despite the ability of vaccines to prevent illness and death, our current system of vaccine financing has resulted in a gap for underinsured children," the authors conclude. "Current trends in health insurance products, including enrollment in high-deductible health plans that may or may not provide immunizations or other preventive benefits before a high deductible has been met, are likely to increase the magnitude of this gap and must be carefully monitored."

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