Soaring Costs Deprive Some Children of Medical Care

MONDAY May 2, 2011 -- Because of soaring health care costs in the United States, some parents are reluctant to take their children to the doctor or to buy prescription drugs, according to a new study.

Researchers examined data from 6,273 families with at least one child who took part in Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys between 2001 and 2006.

One thing that increased the chances that families would delay or go without care was excessive financial burden, defined as insurance premiums or out-of-pocket health care expenses exceeding 10 percent of family income.

Other factors were having a child with an ongoing activity limitation, and a parent with intermittent insurance.

The study also found significant racial/ethnic and income-related disparities. For example, white families were more likely than black families to report delayed or foregone care. Families with a household income below the federal poverty level were more likely to delay or go without care than those with incomes at or above 400 percent of the poverty level.

The study was to be presented Monday at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies. Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary because it has not been subject to the scrutiny required for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

"Every U.S. family has a finite amount of resources available to them, and every day they have to make decisions about how to allocate those resources. This is especially true in today's economy where you hear people talk about 'feeling the pinch,'" study leader Lauren E. Wisk, a doctoral student and graduate research assistant at the School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin, Madison, said in an American Academy of Pediatrics news release.

"This study shows the unfortunate reality of the situation," Wisk added. "Families aren't choosing to spend their money on going to the doctor when someone is sick because of how much it cost them to see the doctor last time. They're sacrificing their health because it costs too much to be healthy."

More information

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has more about health care costs.

Posted: May 2011


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