From the July 2011 issue of Benefits Selling Magazine • Subscribe!

Health care costs often deprive kids

Some children aren’t getting the proper medical care they need—because parents think it’s too expensive. According to a new survey, the high cost of health care is deterring parents from taking their children to the doctor or buying them prescription medication.

Led by Lauren Wisk, a doctoral student and graduate research assistant in the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, researchers examined data from the 2001-2006 Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys on 6,273 families with at least one child.

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 using at least 10 percent of family income, Wisk explains. When that’s the case, families are 40 percent more likely to opt out of receiving care, regardless of their income or health insurance.

“Health insurance clearly isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do,” Wisk says, adding that it should provide families with financial protection against excessive health care costs. “People are paying a lot for insurance, but not receiving sufficient protection in exchange.” Other factors that increased the chances of forgoing care were having a child with an ongoing activity limitation, and a parent who has intermittent insurance.

“This says a lot about the cost of our health care system. We need policy reform that is going to help protect American families against the rising cost of care and having an undue burden placed on them because of for-profit health insurance companies,” Wisk says. “Families are delaying and forgoing needed care to the benefit of shareholders and executives, and I think that needs to change.”

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