NEWARK–In addition to feeling the economic impact of unemployment in the current economic downturn, many families are also facing the loss of healthcare for their children. Many children of the 15.3 million unemployed Americans may be experiencing a loss of healthcare coverage, according to new research by the Child Policy Research Center published in the July issue of Health Affairs.
Researchers found that a high proportion of privately-insured children lose insurance coverage when their parents lose their jobs. Currently more than 9 million children in the United States lack health insurance. That number doubles if you include children who have gaps in coverage during the year.
Another study, by the American Academy of Pediatrics on the importance of continuous health care for children, found that children with insurance gaps experienced “notable problems, including failure to get medical care, prescriptions or to have preventative visits.”
The Importance of Health Care for Children
Children’s health needs are different from those of adults. If health problems are not identified and treated, they can affect a child’s cognitive, physical, behavioral, and emotional development. In general, children experience a wider variety of health problems, some of which can result in long-term disabilities if left untreated.
“It is essential to identify and treat health conditions early to prevent or minimize the impact on development,” says Vinod Goyal, MD, an experienced developmental pediatrician and the Medical Director of The Children’s Hospital Assessment and Treatment Team (CHATT), at Children’s Hospital of New Jersey at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. “Even something as common as recurrent ear infections, if left untreated, can lead to hearing damage and speech delays.”
Children without health care coverage have substantially less access to health care services, including preventive care that ensures childhood immunizations are up-to-date, vision and hearing screening have occurred, and routine dental care has been provided.
The Campaign for Children’s Health Care, a nationwide public education campaign, sites reasons why regular medical care is essential for the wellbeing of children:
- Pediatric health care improves social and emotional development and helps to prevent or address conditions that would have lasting health consequences.
- Children who receive appropriate medical care perform better in school.
- Children need check-ups, immunizations and dental care so they can stay healthy.
- Children with families who have medical insurance miss fewer days of school due to illness and their parents miss less time from work to care for them.
“Making sure that children stay healthy is an important goal for all segments of society,” says Dr. Goyal. “Failure to provide proper care makes it harder to reverse illnesses and increases the chance that youngsters will carry health problems into adulthood.”
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