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More than 150,000 Pennsylvania children have no health insurance, and even those who are insured often lack the preventive care needed to stay healthy, according to a new statewide report from Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.

“Despite Pennsylvania’s status as a national leader in providing accessible, affordable health care to our children, there are too many areas where we still fall short,” said PPC President and CEO Joan Benso. “A fundamental goal of health care reform is to improve access to physical and behavioral health care for our kids, so we need to make sure that happens.”

PPC’s newest annual report, “The State of Children’s Health Care in Pennsylvania,” uses multiple measures to gauge whether children have access to the quality care they need to grow up healthy. The report is the first of its kind in the commonwealth.

Ensuring the health of Pennsylvania’s children is critical to the commonwealth’s social and economic well-being. Healthy children have better school attendance and academic performance, meaning working parents are less likely to need unexpected time off and employers benefit from a more productive, cost-effective workforce.

The report uses various health indicators to provide a data-driven snapshot of children’s health care in Pennsylvania – its successes, limitations and challenges. The inaugural report compiles data from 2010, the year the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law, to provide a baseline for future reports, which will offer year-to-year comparisons to help identify areas where the commonwealth has made gains or needs to improve.

“The State of Children’s Health Care in Pennsylvania” already has identified some troubling gaps in children’s health care, even among the 1.3 million commonwealth children who are insured through Medicaid or Pennsylvania’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP):

  • Fewer than 60 percent of children insured through these publicly funded programs receive the appropriate number of wellness visits between birth and 15 months – visits that are crucial to preventive health care.
  • Thousands of children lack access to primary care providers and specialists, which can lead to delayed diagnoses of physical or behavioral health issues.
  • About 1 in 4 children fail to receive appropriate immunizations against preventable illnesses such as polio, tetanus or hepatitis.
  • Nearly half do not receive annual dental checkups.

“We can do better,” Benso said of these findings. “Children need and deserve access to a full range of physical and behavioral health care resources to ensure their overall well-being. When we ensure our kids grow up healthy, the entire commonwealth benefits.”

Benso said passage of the ACA provides an opportunity to ensure greater access to affordable, quality health care for all children.

Many aspects of the ACA have not yet taken effect, including the establishment of a state health insurance exchange – an online marketplace that will enable families to easily shop for health insurance options that fit their particular needs and budgets. The exchange will be critical in reaching those children that still lack insurance coverage, Benso said, and she urged lawmakers to act this fall to pass legislation to establish the exchange.

“Pennsylvania has a strong history of leadership and commitment in providing health coverage for children, and establishing the health insurance exchange will ensure we continue to be national leaders in keeping our kids healthy,” Benso said.

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Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children will not tolerate any comments containing derogatory, racist or hateful speech and has the right to delete - or refuse to post - any comments that violate this policy.

  February 27, 2013 7:30pm

I recently relocated to PA from New Hampshire. There was a time when I lived in NH that I did not have health coverage for my infant daughter however the peditrician's office never refused treatment and they set me up on a payment plan. I was so grateful. Now I live in PA I have health insurance but I have a high deductible plan. I brought my daughter to the pedritrician's office for a sick visit and they refused service because I owe a balance and they won't accept a payment plan! I am outraged! Its not as if I don't have health insurance and I owe all that much. I just don't have the money to pay the balance today.