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Health Insurance No Guarantee of Asthma Care

Health Insurance And Asthma

Access to health insurance and a medical practitioner is no guarantee that asthma patients will receive optimal care. That’s the finding of a study just published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology by Stanley Szefler, MD, and his colleagues.

Dr. Szefler and his team manage the Denver Public Schools Asthma Program in Colorado, which identifies which students have asthma, educates them about their disease, and helps them find quality medical professionals to work with them. In this study, the researchers evaluated data for 155 students with asthma and found that 90 percent had health insurance and 92 percent had a doctor who managed their care.

Yet despite having health insurance and qualified medical care, the students did not have good control of their asthma. In fact, the quality of asthma control among students with health insurance was similar to that of students who did not have coverage.

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Thirty percent of students with health insurance experienced persistent asthma symptoms during the day, while 25 percent of those without health insurance had symptoms. Having health insurance also did not significantly change the students’ efforts to seek emergency room care either: 57 percent of those with insurance and 63 percent of those without went to the emergency room.

The researchers noted that students who had a health-care provider were more likely to report persistent daytime symptoms and a need for emergency care than students who did not have a doctor, which suggests that having a physician did not improve control of asthma. There was no difference in asthma control between students who had private health insurance and those who had public insurance.

According to the National Health Interview Survey (2007), 6.7 million children in the United States have asthma, which represents 9.1 percent of children in the nation. Based on the results of this study, having health insurance and access to medical care is no guarantee these children will receive the best care for their asthma symptoms. The researchers note that their findings may “highlight a larger issue about the challenges of managing chronic diseases in general and the limitations of merely providing access to medical care,” including health insurance.

Kruzick T et al. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2009 Aug; 124(2): 381-83.
National Health Interview Survey, 2007; Summary Health Statistics for US Children