More than 117,000 children in Oregon lack health insurance, and the number is rising, according to a new study.
The Oregon Health & Science University study said the percentage of uninsured children increased from 10.1 percent in 2002 to 12.3 percent in 2004.
The statewide survey showed that children most likely to be without health insurance are low-income, Hispanic teenagers 14 and older whose families are just above the federal poverty level and had one employed parent and one uninsured parent.
Jen DeVoe, M.D., a family medicine researcher who led the study, said she heard many individual stories about the lack of health care for children.
One patient, a woman who was employed full time and had employer health insurance for herself, asked DeVoe to check her son because she did not have health insurance for him and had been unable to see his pediatrician.
DeVoe said the woman's employer had stopped covering children and could not afford to pay a separate insurance premium for her son because it was more than her monthly income. But she also couldn't qualify for the Oregon Health Plan because her family income was too high.
"Her son was really sick," DeVoe said. "I was heartbroken to realize that she had no options whatsoever."
Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who has launched a state effort to improve access to health care, said the lack of children's health insurance threatens the quality of education and the economy.
"No society can expect to achieve and maintain prosperity while compromising the health of its children," Kulongoski said.
The statewide mail survey was based on completed forms returned by the parents of 2,681 children.
Key findings include:
• As many as 68,000 of Oregon's uninsured children may be eligible for publicly funded health coverage.
• Uninsured children were three times more likely to use the emergency department for routine care.
• Only one in three uninsured children visited a primary care provider in the past 12 months, and only one out of five uninsured children got necessary dental care.
• One in four low-income children had a health insurance coverage gap during the past year. And the longer the gap, the less likely the child was to have regular care.
— The Associated Press