October 7, 2010

One in eight parents forgoes pediatrician-recommended care for their insured children because of inability to pay, according to new study

WSU Boonshoft School of Medicine researchers survey 1,978 southwest Ohio parents

DAYTON, Ohio-One in eight area parents reported that his or her child had not received pediatrician-recommended care - medication, laboratory testing and/or appointments with specialists - during the previous 12 months due to concerns over cost, according to a study conducted by Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine researchers. The researchers presented their paper, "Parents' Perspectives on their Children's Health Insurance: Plight of the Underinsured," at the recent American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)National Conference and Exhibition in San Francisco.

The researchers surveyed 1,978 southwest Ohio parents about the impact of their children's health insurance on their ability to follow pediatric recommendations, as well as on their child's health. Children were considered "underinsured" if their parents had not been able to follow at least one recommendation from a pediatrician during the previous 12 months due to insufficient insurance coverage.

Forty-two percent of parents with underinsured children agreed with the statement that their "child's health had suffered because of not being able to afford the cost of the needed care," compared to less than 2 percent of parents who were not underinsured.

The study also found that private insurance is a risk factor for underinsurance. After controlling for annual family income and health status, children with private insurance were about twice as likely as children with public insurance to be underinsured. In addition, children with poorer health or from poorer families (with household incomes between $15,000 and $34,999) were at greater risk for underinsurance than children who were healthier or from wealthier families (households earning more than $75,000 annually).

The investigators believe the high deductibles and co-pays imposed by private insurance companies are responsible for the high level of child underinsurance among lower-income families whose children do not qualify for public insurance.

"These results serve to highlight a major public health problem pediatricians have observed for years," said John M. Pascoe, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, co-author of the study, professor and director of general/community pediatrics at the Boonshoft School of Medicine and pediatrician at Dayton Children's Medical Center. "Many parents believe their children's health has suffered as a direct result of their inability to afford recommended care for their underinsured children."

The abstract is posted on the AAP conference web site. More information about the study is posted on the Southwestern Ohio Ambulatory Research Network (SOAR-Net) web site. SOAR-Net also will present its findings at the WSU Central Research Forum on Oct. 26.