Underinsured Kids Less Likely Than Uninsured To Receive Vaccines
Underinsured U.S. children have less access to recommended vaccines than uninsured children, according to a study published on Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, USA Today reports.
According to the study -- led by Grace Lee, a pediatric infectious-disease specialist at Harvard Medical School -- an estimated 14% of U.S. children are underinsured.
Underinsured children can purchase vaccines from private physician offices or obtain them at no cost from federally qualified health centers or rural health clinics, provided that they live near such facilities. In addition, states can provide vaccines to private physicians who treat underinsured children at public health clinics, but the study found that many states do not purchase newer, more expensive vaccines.
The study estimated that 2.3 million underinsured children cannot purchase meningococcal vaccines from private physician offices and that 1.2 million cannot obtain the vaccine at public health clinics (Manning, USA Today, 8/8).
Lee said, "Health insurance plans are not necessarily keeping up with the new vaccines, posing significant ethical dilemmas to public health clinics" (AP/Wall Street Journal, 8/8).
In an editorial that accompanied the study, Matthew Davis of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan wrote that the lack of available information on public demand for newer vaccines has prompted local health officials to make their own decisions about which vaccines to purchase.
Davis wrote that he supports "making prioritization of vaccines more explicit and consistent," rather than "continuing a program in which de facto prioritization" leads to inconsistencies.
Lance Rodewald of the National Immunization Program at CDC said, "We'd much rather see the financing system get fixed rather than turn to prioritization" (USA Today, 8/8).
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Tuesday reported on the study. The segment includes comments from Lee and Davis (Neighmond, "All Things Considered," NPR, 8/7). Audio of the segment is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.