Under The Stethoscope: A Look at the State of Children's Health Care in PA

As Pennsylvania works to make sure all children in the state have access to health care, a new report indicates that roughly one child in twenty does not. According to Joan Benso, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, her group has found that despite no lack of effort from both sides of the political aisle, many kids are still falling through the cracks.

"We still have almost 150,000 children uninsured in Pennsylvania, and we're looking forward to not only insuring more of them but being sure, when they have health insurance, children and their families are using their benefits to the maximum degree possible," Benso said.

She said Pennsylvania is in the process of rolling out a new marketing campaign to get parents more familiar with the state's Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Also, a key change is in effect to make it easier to get access to CHIP.

"We had a requirement that children over the age of two remained uninsured for six months before they could join our CHIP program," she recalled. "We just made that requirement go away, and that's great news."

The report noted that there are about 274,000 uninsured Pennsylvania parents, and about 131,000 of them would qualify for Medicaid if Pennsylvania were to expand coverage. Governor Tom Corbett instead is proposing using federal funds intended for expansion to let uninsured Pennsylvanians purchase health insurance on the private market.

"So not only do we need to sign more children up for CHIP and Medicaid in Pennsylvania, find ways to make sure all Pennsylvanians are insured, including parents of uninsured kids, but then we need to make sure parents understand how important it is to use the health-care benefits that exist," Benso declared.

She said the study also reveals that the percentage of children insured by CHIP and Medicaid benefiting from regular check-ups with primary-care providers has remained relatively stable, while reliance on emergency-room visits for health care has increased. Also, 20 percent of kids aren't receiving timely vaccinations against preventable illnesses such as polio, hepatitis and whooping cough.

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