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Existing Health Programs Could Help More Kids With Asthma

Greater enrollment, expanded eligibility would cover most uninsured children, report says

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 24 (HealthDay News) -- The United States could lower the number of uninsured children with asthma by 75 percent by enrolling all those who are eligible for federally funded insurance programs and expanding eligibility, a new report suggests.

At the same time, the report notes health care for kids with asthma costs an average of 50 percent more than for other children.

"Childhood asthma presents one of the nation's starkest examples of what is wrong with the health-care system. Even as more than 1 million children with asthma lack coverage, the nation is squandering health-care dollars on costly treatment while missing key prevention opportunities," Sara Rosenbaum, chairwoman of the department of health policy at George Washington University and co-lead author of the report, said in a news release from the school.

"To date, the knowledge, programs and infrastructure America has amassed about childhood asthma is like an unassembled puzzle. We have the pieces; it's time that we put them together," Rosenbaum said.

The report stated that of the estimated 1.17 million children with asthma who aren't insured, there are 600,000 that are eligible, but haven't been enrolled in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP. In addition, 180,000 children aren't eligible for coverage but would be if the entire country expanded eligibility to the levels already in place in seven states (that level being 300 percent of the federal poverty level).

"The good news is that significant improvements in childhood asthma could result from better use of existing programs," Dr. Floyd Malveaux, former dean of the College of Medicine at Howard University, explained in the news release. "For those children most at risk, stable and continuous health insurance could lead to greater access to care, controlled health spending and improved overall health."

The report is funded by Merck Childhood Asthma Network, a non-profit group founded by a philanthropic arm of the Merck pharmaceutical company, and RCHN Community Health Foundation.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has details on asthma in children.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: George Washington University, news release, Feb. 23, 2010

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