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Middle Class Uninsured Kids' Health Risk Almost as High as Poor Children's

More than 40% of middle class children with no health insurance don't see a doctor all year

SATURDAY, May 3 (HealthDay News) -- Poor and middle-class children share at least one frightening fact: If they are not insured, each group is likely to go without any health care... period.

New research from the University of Rochester Medical Center said more than 40 percent of children in families earning between $38,000 and $77,000 annually who are uninsured for a year see no physicians and have no prescriptions during that time.

The percentage is as high as 55 percent for uninsured children in families earning even less than that. The percentages taper off but don't fall below 42 percent until the $78,629-and-above bracket, when they drop to 30 percent, the research showed.

"There's an assumption that children in families with higher income levels don't need insurance, that they are uninsured but are somehow still receiving health care anyway," study author Laura Shone, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said in a prepared statement.

"This study shows that in reality, a large percentage of these children don't receive any care at all -- which pediatricians say is unacceptable, and parents know is unrealistic. Even healthy, older children need to see their physicians at least once over the course of a year."

Shone's findings were to be presented Saturday at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in Honolulu.

Nearly 3 million uninsured U.S. children received no medical care or prescription use for a full year, according to an analysis of nationally representative data from a 2004 survey. About 1.6 million of those children may qualify for public coverage but are not enrolled, and another 1 million more could be covered through expansions that were proposed but vetoed by President George W. Bush at the national level in late 2007.

The percentage of uninsured children who forgo all health care for a full year is greatest (55 percent) for families of four at or below the federal poverty level of $19,157, the researchers found.

Since 1997, the U.S. State Children's Health Insurance Program has provided health insurance to low-income children who are not eligible for Medicaid and do not have private coverage.

The federal program has been extended, but there is no funding to expand it. Questions remain about whether current funding will continue to cover those already enrolled.

More information

The American College of Emergency Physicians has more about access to medical care for the uninsured.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: University of Rochester Medical Center, news release, May 3, 2008

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