Uninsured parents means fewer kids’ checkups

(Reuters) – Children whose parents lack health insurance may miss out on routine care, even when the children themselves are covered, a new study finds.

Using data from a government survey of more than 43,000 US households, researchers found that children and teenagers were least likely to have seen a doctor or dentist in the past year when they and their parents lacked health insurance.

However, gaps were also seen when parents were uninsured but had coverage for their children – through, for example, the government-run State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Compared with children whose parents had health insurance, these children were almost one-third more likely to have no regular health provider. They were also 20 per cent more likely to have missed out on at least one type of preventive health counselling – like talking with a doctor about healthy eating and exercise.

The findings point to the importance of health insurance for the entire family, according to the researchers, led by Dr. Jennifer E. DeVoe of Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.

The State Program was developed to provide insurance for US children from working families who cannot afford private insurance but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, the healthcare coverage programme for the poor.

And the State Program has improved US children’s coverage rates, Dr. DeVoe and her colleagues write in the Annals of Family Medicine.

Of the 43,509, two- to 17-year-olds in the study, about 74 per cent were from families where all members had health insurance. In eight per cent of homes, both parents and children lacked coverage, while in 10 per cent, children were covered but parents were not.

In those latter 10 per cent of families, children were more than twice as likely to have spent part of the year uninsured, compared with those in families where all members had insurance.