Lack of Health Insurance Linked to Fewer Asthma Diagnoses in Children

Release Date: October 27, 2011 | By David Pittman, Contributing Writer
Research Source: Health Services Research

KEY POINTS

  • Insured children with intermittent asthma are four times more likely to receive an asthma diagnosis and controlling medication than uninsured children, according to a new study.
  • Insured children with intermittent asthma are more likely to visit the emergency room or doctor’s office for flares than uninsured children with intermittent asthma.
  • The diagnosis of children with severe asthma symptoms is not affected by their health insurance coverage status.
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Providing health insurance to more children could lead to diagnosing additional cases of mild or intermittent asthma, a new study shows. Some who treat childhood asthma say this could increase the number of kids receiving medication to control their asthma symptoms and seeking care for asthma flares.

A study published in the journal Health Services Research examined the relationship between insurance coverage and the likelihood of asthma diagnosis. The researchers found insured children with intermittent asthma are four times more likely to have an asthma diagnosis to receive a prescription for inhaled medication.

Children with more persistent asthma symptoms seemed to obtain a diagnosis regardless of insurance status, said lead author Tumaini Coker, MD, assistant professor at the University of California at Los Angeles’ Mattel Children’s Hospital.

“Health insurance may lead to diagnosis for children with milder symptoms of asthma, who otherwise may not be diagnosed because they don't present to emergency departments and doctor offices for asthma flares as often as children with more severe symptoms,” Coker said.

However, insured children with a diagnosis of intermittent asthma were also more likely to make visits to the emergency room or doctor’s office than children without insurance, despite taking medication. Coker’s team suggested that this may be due to parents’ increased sensitivity to asthma symptoms following a diagnosis.

“We need other studies that look at the long-term benefits and costs of detecting and treating previously undiagnosed children who have intermittent asthma” before understanding the widespread benefit to consumers, Coker said of wider health coverage.

Despite potential costs, Michael Cabana, MD, professor of pediatrics at the University of California at San Francisco believes finding more cases of persistent and intermittent asthma will improve kids’ quality of life.

“If we insure more kids, we may uncover this unmet need of folks that haven’t been diagnosed with asthma or who aren’t achieving optimal care,” he said.

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Reach the Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health, at (202) 387-2829 or hbns-editor@cfah.org.

Health Services Research is the official journal of the Academy Health and is published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. on behalf of the Health Research and Educational Trust. For information, contact Jennifer Shaw, HSR Business Manager at (312) 422-2646 or jshaw@aha.org. HSR is available online at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1475-6773/.

Coker, T., et al. The association of health insurance and disease impairment with reported asthma prevalence in U.S. children. Health Serv Res online, 2011.

Tags for this article:
Asthma   Health Insurance   Children and Young People's Health  



Comments on this article
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RoyMoran says
October 27, 2011 at 1:37 AM

Yeap. In fact, did you know that Currently, many insurance companies do not allow adult children to remain on their parents' plan once they reach 19. Companies cannot do that any more. Search onilne for