According to a recently released study, 3% of all children and adolescents in the United States go without health insurance at some point in a given year:
That translates into almost 3 million U.S. children with no medical care at all and no access to prescription drugs over a full year. Slightly more than half of that number qualify for public coverage but aren't enrolled.
Overall, more than 9 million U.S. children are uninsured; some 18 million have a coverage gap at one time or another, according to the study.
But, surprisingly, this includes kids whose parents have coverage:
The authors of the first study looked at data from 2002 to 2005 on children and adolescents under the age of 19 living with at least one parent. The study included more than 39,000 participants.
Their analysis found that 3.3 percent of children and adolescents were uninsured, even though they had at least one insured parent. (emphasis mine)
What about demographic information?
Uninsured children and adolescents were 58 percent more likely to be Hispanic than white non-Hispanic; had double the odds of being from a low-income versus a high-income family; were 48 percent more likely to be from a middle-income rather than high-income family; and twice as likely to come from a single-parent home than a home with two married parents.
...children whose parents had less than a high school education were 44 percent more likely to be uninsured; they were also 64 percent less likely to be insured if their parents had public coverage rather than being privately insured.
None of this should be a surprise. Poor kids don't have adequate health care coverage. Middle-class kids are less likely to be insured than kids from richer families; kids whose parents make between $38k and $72k a year are just as likely to be uninsured as their poorer counterparts. Kids with parents who have limited education are less likely to be insured, probably because the parents are less likely to have jobs that offer comprehensive family healthcare plans.
Why haven't we passed legislature to provide all children with health care coverage? Remember, the people who typically vote against candidates daring to propose universal health care are also the people who are most opposed to family planning.
"But N.B.," say some members of the audience, "the article says that over half the kids involved qualify for public assistance but aren't signed up. That's the fault of parents, not the government."
You're right. But not providing health care for children is sheer negligence, and we punish people for child neglect already. The definition of child neglect is "any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation." It is considered neglect to fail to provide for a child's basic needs, and medical care is included among them.
About half of U.S. children without health insurance had to go without medical care or prescription medications while they were uninsured, said researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center. Even more children went without preventive care, including receiving necessary vaccinations.
If you don't see why this is a problem, you're part of it. And if you don't see why there need to be laws mandating health coverage for children (and adequate government assistance for those who need it), you're still part of the problem. Until there are laws mandating health care coverage for all children, we're losing a battle. There are kids out there who don't get treatment for the most basic illnesses because they lack health care coverage. Maybe one of them is yours.
"Children are like flowers," they say. "You can never have too many."
If you aren't watering your garden and your flowers are dying, maybe you should rethink that assertion.
So...please! Think of the children!