No matter what anyone tells you, there are disparities in health care, and poor children have less access to care, even when they have Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP).
According to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 66 percent of children with public health care (Medicaid or CHIP) who had medical needs — severe body rashes, obstructed breathing during sleep, Type 1 diabetes, uncontrolled asthma, severe depression, new onset seizures or a fracture that could affect bone growth — were turned away by medical specialists, while only 11 percent of children with private insurance were denied care.
The study also found that Medicaid and CHIP-insured children who received an appointment faced longer wait times. Their average wait to see a specialist was 44 days, while privately-insured children with similar urgent conditions waited 20 days. Federal law, however, requires that Medicaid recipients have the same access to medical care as the general population in their community.
It appears that federal law doesn’t matter here.
For the study, volunteers called physicians practices asking for an appointment for a child who had one of the conditions listed above. The only difference in the script was the answer to what kind of insurance the child had. In more than half of the calls to clinics, the caller was asked for information about the child’s insurance type before being told whether an appointment could be scheduled. In 52 percent of these calls, the type of insurance coverage was the first question asked.
And with “austerity” budgets being passed in so many states, Medicaid and CHIP are facing severe cuts. Children are being booted from the system already and wait times to get CHIP are growing longer every day.
So, the next time Rep. Heath Shuler tells me that “our children are cared for,” I’ll cite this study and see what he has to say.
Medical practices are full, which is why some kids can’t get an appointment, even if they do have insurance. But to turn away two-thirds of children with real medical needs because their parents can’t afford insurance is inexcusable.