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Short Gaps in Health Coverage Can Affect Children

Uninsurance periods linked to medical care delays, lack of usual source of care and well-child visits

WEDNESDAY, Mar. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Even short periods without health insurance can reduce young children's health care access and utilization, according to research published in the March issue of Pediatrics.

Janet R. Cummings, of the University of California Los Angeles, and colleagues analyzed data on 11,343 children -- ages newborn to 11 years -- in households surveyed in the 2005 California Health Interview Survey. The researchers assessed associations between different periods of uninsurance and children's health care access and utilization.

Going for even one to four months without insurance was associated with an increased chance of delays in needed medical care and a lower chance of having a usual source of care, the researchers report. Longer periods without insurance were associated with a lower likelihood of a usual source of care, having a well-child visit in the previous year, and having any doctor visit in the previous year.

"Findings from this study provide additional evidence of the importance of public insurance programs in ensuring access to needed health services for children. In our study, children with continuous enrollment in Medicaid and SCHIP had access to care that was comparable to those with continuous private coverage. Because affordability was a commonly cited barrier to insurance, policy makers should consider expanding public insurance income eligibility requirements, particularly for children living in poverty," the authors conclude.

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