High Health Insurance Coverage Not Benefiting DC Children

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A recently released study that was conducted by RAND Health and funded by Children’s National Medical Center finds that although the rate of health insurance among children living in the District of Columbia is high, their access to health care is inadequate.

An estimated 3.5 percent of the more than 100,000 children who live in Washington, DC, do not have health insurance, a rate that is well below the national average of an estimated 9.1 percent. Yet despite this optimistic health insurance figure, many of the children who have health care coverage are not receiving the care they need. This problem is especially prominent among children who have health insurance that is publicly funded.

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Where is the disconnect between children having health insurance and them getting care? The study’s investigators found that one problem is an uneven distribution of and thus lack of easy access to primary and specialty care providers in the District of Columbia. Another barrier is the limited availability of health care providers who can speak languages other than English. The researchers also found a perceived lack of understanding by health care providers of cultural and neighborhood issues.

Another issue that arose during the study was that certain chronic health conditions, such as asthma, sickle cell anemia, HIV/AIDS, and obesity, are common among children living in the District of Columbia and they need special attention. Having health insurance has not improved access to care for children with these conditions.

Authors of the study have come up with recommendations for ways to improve health care access for children in DC who have health insurance and who are not benefiting from it. They suggest, among other things, that health promotion efforts must be a collaborative activity that includes both private and public sector organizations, such as schools, child care centers, and community-based groups. They believe more attention should be focused on wellness and prevention programs, including violence prevention and sexual health interventions, and that children’s access to primary and specialty care may be improved through better reimbursement and incentives such as implementation of electronic health records.

SOURCE: RAND news release, October 8, 2009

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