The good news is that most of California’s children with special health care needs have health insurance. Unfortunately, that’s only part of the story. For nearly 40 percent of these children, their insurance coverage is inadequate to meet their needs, and low reimbursement policies make it extremely difficult for their families to find physicians and other care providers. As one parent of a special needs child said in a recent article from New America Media (NAM), “I called every therapist from Oakland to San Leandro, but none of them is willing to accept him.”
The NAM article, by Vivian Po, recounts the experiences of several Bay Area families, whose children have diagnoses that include cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism, Asperger’s syndrome, and epilepsy. The story highlights how program cuts brought about by California’s staggering budget deficit are worsening the underinsurance problem and taking a toll on families.
The issue is, of course, not limited to California. A national study published online March 8 in the journal Pediatrics notes that adequacy of insurance is strongly related to where a child lives, and that disparities exist within and among states. The authors conclude that legislation guaranteeing insurance for all children is important, but not sufficient. “If policymakers are interested in ensuring equitable treatment in the health care system for children with special health care needs, then policy initiatives aimed at reducing underinsurance and increasing uniformity of coverage across states are also needed,” they write.
A focus area for our foundation is improving the systems of care for kids with special needs, and adequate insurance must be a top priority. See our website at http://www.lpfch.org/informed/cshcn/.
Posted by David Alexander, MD