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National study: Health care access for poor children improves, but gap in care for uninsured grows

Tampa, FL (March 15, 2004) -- Health care for children covered by government programs like Medicaid and the State Child Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) appears to be improving, but the gap in care is widening between these publicly insured children and poor children without insurance, a new national report by the University of South Florida and federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) indicates.

"Publicly insured children still do not receive the same type or amount of health services as privately insured children, but they are better off than uninsured children," said lead author Lisa Simpson, MB, BCh, MPH, professor of pediatrics at the USF College of Medicine who holds the All Children's Hospital Endowed Guild Chair in Child Health Policy. "In fact, the proportion of uninsured children who made at least one office visit (to a physician or other health care practitioner) dropped from 52 percent in 1987 to 43 percent in 1999."

The report was published today in the March-April issue of the journal Ambulatory Pediatrics. It draws on two national databases to detail trends in insurance coverage, use of health care services, perceived quality of care and health care expenses for U.S. children, ages 17 and younger, from 1987 through 2001.

Overall, the researchers found, access to health care appears to be better and children are receiving care in more appropriate and less expensive settings. For instance, emergency room visits and hospitalizations are down while office-based visits are up. The study confirms a decrease in the rate of uninsurance among children, spurred over the last 15 years by state and federal initiatives to expand health insurance coverage for low-income children and a strong economy. But, the researchers write, "children who remained without coverage in the late 1990s appeared to experience worsening access to care."

"We already have evidence of states needing to cut eligibility, limit enr
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Contact: Anne DeLotto Baier
abaier@hsc.usf.edu
813-974-3300
University of South Florida Health
15-Mar-2004


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