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Teens Get Needed Access to Care With State Health Insurance

When given health insurance through the state children’s health insurance program (SCHIP), teens see their doctors more often,// racial disparities are eliminated and more preventive care is received. This often-overlooked age group also received more counseling from their health care providers about guns, smoking, drugs, alcohol and sexuality – all issues that impact their long-term health.

"Adolescents have the worst access to health care among children," said Jonathan Klein, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of Adolescent Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center and author of a paper on the subject in this month’s Pediatrics. "But when given access through the state children’s health insurance program, or SCHIPs, they receive the preventive care that helps them grow into healthy adults."

The study surveyed about 1,000 adolescents and their parents shortly after enrollment in New York’s SCHIP program, Child Health Plus, and again a year later.

Upon enrollment, a significant number of adolescents had fair or poor health status (14 percent). The majority of adolescents were from families living in poverty (83 percent) and most were uninsured before their enrollment (71 percent).

Their parents were more likely to report that their adolescent had a preventive visit (74 percent) than they were before enrolling in SCHIP (66 percent). More parents also reported that their teens’ providers had counseled on a variety of preventative health issues while in the program, including guns, smoking, drugs, alcohol and sexuality – which is significant since 14 percent of adolescents reported smoking cigarettes and one-fifth had prior sexual intercourse upon enrollment.

"The increase in access to a usual source of care and reduction of unmet needs are the most important finding of this study. Getting access to care is key to adolescent health," Klein said. Parents also were significantly less likely to say th
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