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National Survey Shows Children's Health Insurance Lacking


Nearly 7 million children in the United States do not have health insurance, according to a new federal survey, and about 25 percent of children who do have health insurance have inadequate coverage. The National Survey of Children’s Health 2007 also reveals problems with obesity and mental health services.

The new findings are the effort of researchers with the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative (CAHMI) at Oregon Health & Science University and was sponsored by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau and administered through the National Center for Health Statistics. More than 91,600 interviews were conducted, representing an average of 1,700 children younger than 18 in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The survey highlights disparities in health and the quality of health care across state lines and among groups of children. Christina Bethell, PhD, an associate professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University who directs the CAHMI team, notes that “The state a child lives in, a child’s race, income and neighborhood all significantly impact his or her health.” This factor thus makes it “more important than ever to ensure health care reform efforts address the range of health and health care needs of all children,” says Bethell.

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From state to state, the survey uncovered significant differences regarding health issues. In Utah, for example, 23 percent of adolescents are overweight or obese compared with 44 percent in Mississippi. Children living in Minnesota who have health insurance are nearly twice as likely as children in Hawaii to find that their insurance is inadequate.

Distribution of mental health services also was uneven. While 82 percent of children living in Pennsylvania received needed mental health care services, only 42 percent of children in Texas received the same access to mental health care. Overall, 40 percent of children who needed mental health services did not receive them, representing no improvement in such services since 2003.

Other findings of the survey showed that the rates of obesity had increased from 14.8 percent in 2003 to 16.4 percent in 2007. More than 6 million children younger than 5 years are at moderate or high risk for developmental, behavioral, or social delays, yet less than 20 percent of these children received the recommended screening during a well-child visit. In addition, the survey revealed that more than 40 percent of children are not receiving what the American Academy of Pediatrics calls care within a “medical home,” which means care that is accessible, continuous, comprehensive, family-centered, coordinated, and compassionate.

Anyone who wants more information about children’s health insurance or other health issues covered in the survey can access the study at Childhealthdata.org. A federal report on the survey, “The Health and Well-Being of Children” A Portrait of States and the Nation 2007,” can be seen at http://mchb.hrsa.gov/nsch07.

Oregon Health & Science University press release, Jan. 10, 2010