Under-insurance among American children

August 30, 2010  |  General

There’s been a lot of attention, appropriate attention, focused on children without health insurance. These children tend to be in families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid, but too low to allow purchase of decent insurance. Medicaid covers around a quarter of America’s children.

There’s another insurance problem facing America’s children — under-insurance. For families who can’t get insurance through an employer, buying health insurance on the private market is expensive — prohibitively so for many families. So they buy a bare-bones policy that can easily turn out to be a total waste of money because it doesn’t give the coverage needed when a child actually gets sick. That’s called under-insurance. How common is it among America’s children? A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine gives us some idea of the answer.

The study takes the form of a survey done in 2007. It found that 19% of all children had inadequate health insurance. This was far more children than had no insurance at all during the year or who spent part of the year without insurance. What this means in practice is that a major illness in a child, such we often see in the PICU, can bankrupt a family even if they have some sort of coverage. Not surprisingly, “under-insured children were significantly more likely to have delayed or forgone care, and to have difficulty in obtaining needed specialist care.”

It’s too soon to see if the new healthcare bill will have any impact on this grim statistic. There are lots of interesting statistics in the article, analyzing many subgroups of children by income level and geographic location. If you’re interested at all in health policy, it’s well worth a look.

Leave a Reply