Many Uninsured Asthmatic Children Receive No Medical Care: Physicians Concerned

Hundreds of thousands of children in the U.S. face the prospect of a life-threatening asthma attack at a time when they have no health insurance, according to a new study recently published in the journal Ambulatory Pediatrics.

Researchers utilized data collected in 2003 and 2004 at the National Center for Health Statistics and determined that 30% of children in the U.S. with asthma (roughly 759,000 children) come from families with annual incomes greater than 200% of the federal poverty level — a level that would disqualify them from children’s health insurance programs in most states. Fourteen percent of those children were found to have gone without health insurance at some point during the previous year — among them, 2% (or 114,000) who went without health insurance for the entire year. Those same children were determined to be 14 times more likely to go without needed medications than were their medically-insured peers.

The study also showed that many children with asthma were not receiving medical care as frequently as they needed. One-third of parents who had lost insurance benefits during the year, and half of those parents with no insurance benefits for an entire year, remarked that their child had not seen a physician for preventive care within the last year. Generally accepted medical guidelines require that children with asthma be seen at least once per year to address ongoing health issues and prevent life-threatening asthma attacks.

Authors of the study also noted that no discernible differences were detected between children with public insurance and those with private insurance plans when it came to issues such as unmet needs, discontinuity of care or lack of access, indicating that consistency of insurance coverage is more important than the source of that coverage.
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