Nearly half (48%) of all uninsured children have not had a well-child visit in the past year

A new analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that nearly half (48%) of all uninsured children have not had a well-child visit in the past year.

The survey also shows that uninsured children are nine times more likely than insured children to lack a regular source of medical care, such as a pediatrician or family doctor. The analysis concludes that many uninsured children lack access to basic health care services; sometimes rely on hospital emergency rooms for routine care; and are more likely than insured children to have an unmet or delayed medical need.

"What these data tell us is what low-income working parents across this nation already know ? that not having health insurance is bad for our nation's children. Without insurance too many children are missing the regular check ups and preventive care that will prepare them to do their best in school," said John R. Lumpkin, M.D., senior vice president and director of the Health Care Group, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "In this, the richest nation in the world, no child should be without health care coverage."

Additional findings from the analysis of data from the 2002 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which is sponsored by the CDC, indicate that uninsured children are missing out on medical treatments they could receive if they were enrolled in Medicaid or the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Among low- income uninsured children, whose family income makes it likely that they are eligible for coverage through Medicaid or SCHIP:

Half (52%) have not had a well-child visit in the past year Almost one-third (31%) do not have a usual source of care One in six (17%) had a delayed or unmet medical need in the past year

The survey also found that a quarter of all uninsured children with asthma had a delayed or unmet medical need in the past year. The survey analysis was conducted by the Urban Institute and released by Covering Kids & Families, a program of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Another report by the Center for Studying Health System Change, also released today at the launch of the Covering Kids & Families Back-to- School Campaign, found that Medicaid and SCHIP contributed to a significant decrease in the number of uninsured children between 2001 and 2003, at the same time that the overall number of uninsured adults increased.

According to the report, low-income children experienced large gains in public insurance enrollment. Between 2001 and 2003, the proportion of low-income children enrolled in public insurance grew from 37.9 percent to 49.3 percent, representing an increase of almost 5 million children.

"Public insurance programs provide much needed health care coverage for children who would otherwise be uninsured," said Paul B. Ginsburg, Ph.D., president, Center for Studying Health System Change. "In fact, without these programs, the number of uninsured in America would be much higher, and many of them would be children."

"The reports released today demonstrate that Medicaid and SCHIP are providing vital medical care. Care that far too many of the uninsured miss out on," added Lumpkin.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2002 there were 8.5 million uninsured children in the United States, or 11.6 percent of the nation's children. Millions of these children are needlessly going without health care coverage because many of them are eligible for low-cost or free health care coverage programs. Medicaid and SCHIP provide at least 17 million children with coverage that includes routine checkups, hearing and vision screenings, prescription medicines, and hospitalization. Eligibility for these programs varies by state, but, on average, a family of four earning up to $37,000 a year or more may qualify.

"I've met a lot of parents who were surprised to find out that their sons or daughters are eligible for these health care coverage programs," said Governor Mark Warner, (D-VA), Chairman, National Governors Association. "But in Virginia, and across the country, working families earning as much as $37,000 a year or more may be eligible." "Health care coverage for children is an investment in our future," said Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR), Vice Chairman, National Governors Association, in videotaped remarks. "It gives children a healthy start in life now and leads to a healthier America tomorrow." The Covering Kids & Families Back-to-School Campaign is a nationwide effort to enroll eligible children in Medicaid and SCHIP. Covering Kids & Families coalitions are planning more than 2,100 enrollment activities during August and September to inform families about low- cost and free health care coverage. Many parents who earn low to modest incomes do not believe that their children are eligible for these programs.

"Since being covered, the girls have gotten the regular and emergency care they need," said Terry McDermott, Seattle, mother of 15-year-old twin daughters, enrolled in Washington's SCHIP Program, Healthy Kids Now!. "I can't put a price on what it has meant to get health care coverage for my kids while my husband, Scott, was between jobs."

Each year, the Covering Kids & Families Back-to-School Campaign places a special emphasis on reaching Hispanic and African-American families since they are more likely to be uninsured than non- Hispanic white families. The analysis of the NHIS survey found significant disparities in access to care among uninsured Hispanic children relative to other uninsured children. Three out of five uninsured Hispanic children (60%) have not had a well-child visit in the past year and almost two out of five (37%) do not have a usual source of care.

"Too many Hispanic children who are uninsured are unnecessarily missing out on basic health care," said Elena Rios, M.D., M.S.P.H., president, National Hispanic Medical Association. "We are working to spread the word to Latino families that low-cost and free health care coverage is available for their children. With coverage, children have access to the health care services they need to grow up and be healthy."

More than 170 national organizations are working with Coverings Kids & Families to inform eligible families about the availability of low- cost and free health care coverage. Organizations representing public officials, health professionals, educators and businesses, as well as social service agencies and faith-based organizations, will distribute information through their offices, Web sites, listserv announcements, newsletters, conferences, direct mail and more.

Covering Kids & Families also works with corporate partners to promote Medicaid and SCHIP enrollment. Some of the 2004 corporate partners include Capital One, CVS/pharmacy, Giant Food, LLC, Stop & Shop, and H&R Block. These corporations promote messages about low- cost and free health care coverage and the national toll-free 1(877) KIDS-NOW number through billing statements, children's prescription information sheets, advertising circulars, milk cartons and special tax information forms.

"Corporations that work with Covering Kids & Families give much more than an in-kind gift or advertising space, they provide an opportunity," said Sarah Shuptrine, director of the Covering Kids & Families National Program Office. "An opportunity to let parents and guardians know that help is available for an all too common problem? affording health care for their children."

Families can learn more about low-cost and free health care coverage for children by calling toll-free 1(877) KIDS-NOW. Callers will be connected to their state program. Spanish-speaking operators are available in most states.

The 2002 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) is a continuous, in- person, household survey sponsored by the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The sample, which includes 40,000 households and approximately 93,000 persons, is nationally representative of the civilian, non-institutionalized U.S. population. Data were analyzed for 12,500 children age 0 to 17 years.

The Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) Community Tracking Study Household Survey is a nationally representative telephone survey of the civilian, non-institutionalized population conducted in 1996-97, 1998-99, 2000-01 and 2003. The first three rounds of the survey contain information on about 60,000 people, while the 2003 survey contains responses from about 47,000 people. The estimates in this report are representative of people under age 65.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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