Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Report: 20.3 million U.S. children lack full access to essential health services; rural obstacles seen

Despite a significant increase in the number of children covered with health insurance, 20.3 million children—28 percent of all in the U.S.—still do not have full access to essential health services, says a report released Monday by the Children's Health Fund, a New York-based non-profit.

The report, based on federal data, medical journals and data from the fund's clinics, found that through Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and federal health reform, the number of uninsured children has dropped from 9.6 million—13.9 percent—in 1997 to 3.3 million—4.5 percent—in 2015, a drop of more than 67 percent.

However, researchers found that 10.3 million children—14 percent—are insured, but miss regular primary care checkups, often because of obstacles in rural areas, such as being unable to afford costs, lack of transportation, doctor shortages, or cultural or language barriers. Also, 6.7 million children on Medicaid/CHIP—9 percent of all children—"have access to primary care but have unmet needs for pediatric subspecialty care," such as pediatric cardiology.

Researchers expressed concern that President-elect Donald Trump's vows to repeal some, if not all, of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, could make it even more difficult for some children to receive care, Marc Santora reports for The New York Times. The study, which noted that employer-based health insurance premiums for family coverage increased by 73 percent from 2003 to 2013, found that "the average deductible for an individual with health insurance was 5 percent of median income in 2013, up from 2 percent in 2003."

Researchers also found "that 59 percent of pediatricians said they had a hard time collecting patients’ shares of deductibles and co-payments from families covered by private high-deductible health plans," Santora writes.

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