Insurance Matters When It Comes to Kids' Health Care

Insured children are 3 times more likely to visit the doctor, study finds

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THURSDAY, Aug. 14, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Insured children in the United States are much more likely than uninsured children (91 percent vs. 69 percent) to visit a doctor's office and to have a regular annual check-up (77 percent vs. 45 percent), according to new data released Thursday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The study, conducted by University of Minnesota researchers who analyzed U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from 2005-07, also found that:

  • About 10 million American children have chronic illnesses and 3.6 million of those children are covered by Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Chronically ill children covered by public insurance receive the same level of health services as those with private insurance, but chronically ill children with no insurance receive far less care.
  • Uninsured children with chronic needs are far more likely (41 percent) to have their care delayed or to receive no care, compared to insured children with chronic needs (10 percent).
  • Eight percent of children with chronic health conditions enrolled in SCHIP or Medicaid don't have a personal doctor, compared to 21 percent of uninsured children.
  • Sixteen percent of children with special needs who are enrolled in SCHIP or Medicaid don't receive mental health care services, compared to 43 percent of uninsured children.

The findings highlight the importance of government insurance programs such as Medicaid and SCHIP, the study authors said.

"SCHIP and Medicaid provide an important safety net for America's families, especially for families with chronically ill children. These programs allow kids to get the care they need, so they can feel better, grow stronger and thrive in school," Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in a news release.

"When children who need care do not receive it, their conditions worsen and are harder and more expensive to treat later. Because of Medicaid and SCHIP, millions of kids can get regular check-ups, take the medications they need to stay well and see a doctor when they are sick. Parents of any uninsured child should find out if their family is eligible for low-cost or free insurance before sending their kids back to school," Lavizzo-Mourey added.

Currently, more than nine million children in the United States are uninsured, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Most uninsured children live in families where at least one parent works full-time.

More information

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more about children and health insurance.

SOURCE: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, news release, Aug. 14, 2008

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