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October 14, 2007

Children only get about half the recommended treatment for common medical problems such as asthma and obesity, potentially leading them toward an unhealthy adulthood, researchers have found in the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind.

The problems with poor-quality health care for children holds true even when they have good health insurance, according to the study to be published Thursday in New England Journal of Medicine.

Babies aren't getting regular height and weight checks to make sure they're growing properly. Toddlers don't get all their recommended immunizations. Schoolchildren aren't getting all medication they need to control chronic asthma. Teenagers aren't screened for chlamydia, a common sexually transmitted disease.

"That almost all of the kids in the study had health insurance yet still failed to get good care is pretty disturbing," said lead author and pediatrician Dr. Rita Mangione-Smith of the University of Washington-Seattle. "This study shows that health care quality for kids is an issue in itself; it's not just about health coverage."

The study comes at a politically fraught time for children's health, as Congressional Democratic leaders work to overturn President Bush's recent veto of a major expansion of SCHIP, a popular national children's health insurance program. Without compromise legislation, the entire program, which insures 4 million children, could shut down in November. The expansion also included new provisions for monitoring and improving health care quality, Mangione-Smith said.

With parents' permission, the researchers reviewed medical records for more than 1,500 children randomly selected from 12 urban areas who would, in theory, have good access to doctors and hospitals. Nearly all the children had some form of health insurance, and 82 percent of the insured children had private health coverage. They tended to be less diverse than children in the general population, researchers noted.

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Posted by healthinsurance at October 14, 2007 04:46 PM