Quantity and quality in children's healthcare
It is unclear what will happen after the president’s veto of the bill reauthorizing the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and the inability of Congress to override his veto. John Iglehart, the highly-respected national correspondent for the New England Journal of Medicine, reviews the episode here. It is brief, understandable, and to the point. Whatever you think of the issue, it is clear opponents of the program misrepresented what it was.
But there is a deeper issue — quality, as well as quantity, matters. In a way, the SCHIP debate is about quantityof healthcare because it concerns access to care; children and adolescents are disproportionately more likely than adults to be poor, something SCHIP was designed to address. Another recent New England Journal article shows how qualityof healthcare for children is also a major problem.
This observation goes against the common wisdom, which has been that problems in quality of healthcare are not such a problem for children as they are for adults. The unspoken assumption has been that children’s conditions are somehow easier to diagnose and less complicated to treat than those adults get. So if the child could get to the doctor, then we presumed the child usually got the correct care. This is not true; deficiency rates in the quality of care for children were similar to those noted in adults.
What is the solution? We need to assume children are just as complicated as adults in their healthcare needs.