One in seven adolescents still doesn't have health insurance

One in seven U.S. children aged 10 to 18 is not covered by health insurance. That figure has not changed in more than a decade, even though government-funded health plans now cover more children and teens.

"Little progress has been made over the past fifteen years in reducing the numbers of uninsured adolescents," said Paul Newacheck, DrPH, professor of health policy and pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). He is the principal author of a study published in the August issue of the journal Pediatrics -- the first comprehensive, nationwide look, using data from the 1990s, at adolescent health insurance and health care.

"Approximately 4.2 million adolescents had no health insurance coverage in 1995, based on data from the National Health Interview Survey conducted that year by the Bureau of the Census," Newacheck said. "As a result, these children had significant obstacles to getting adequate health care. The new, federally-supported State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) may provide an opportunity to improve access to care - but only if states will implement effective outreach strategies to enroll families with adolescents."

The difference between insured and uninsured adolescents: Those without insurance are five times more likely to have no doctor or clinic where they and their parents know they can go for care; and four times more likely to have unmet health needs.

Study co-author Charles Irwin, MD, chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine at UCSF, said one checkup by a doctor per year is the standard recommendation for children aged 10 to 18. Uninsured teens are twice as likely not to have seen a doctor in more than a year. That means they miss out on preventive screening for problems with vision, hearing and chronic diseases such as diabetes. They also miss what pediatricians call "anticipatory guidance" - they have no doctor to talk with them about sexual choices and other risky behaviors such

Contact: Janet Basu
University of California - San Francisco

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