A new study looking to build a baseline for future evaluations of the federal Affordable Care Act has found some deficiencies in Pennsylvania that at least one group feels need to be improved.
“Some of the goals of the health care reform law are to provide insurance to more people and basically make the health care system more accessible to people,” said Pennsylvania Partnership for Children Spokesperson Michael Race. “We wanted to find a way to measure the effectiveness of the Affordable Care Act, as its implemented, in reaching children and in insuring children.”
To do that the Partnership looked at insurance data from 2010, which is both the most recent year for which data is available and the year the Affordable Care Act was enacted. Race said what they found was a bit surprising and a bit disturbing.
About 153,000 children in Pennsylvania have no health insurance according to Race, and he said that should be troubling in a state that has "universal coverage." "What that means is that between private insurance, Medicaid and our state’s CHIP program, our children’s health insurance program, there is really no reason for any child to go without health insurance,” said Race.
Race places much of the blame at the feet of parents who do not take advantage of the various opportunities but he also notes the state and non-profit organizations can always do a better job in getting out the word.
The study also finds that even among children who have insurance through CHIP or Medicaid, about one in four are not up to date on their immunizations. Race said the same holds true for other forms of preventative health care such as well visits and dental checkups where as many as half of all Pennsylvania children are behind. “The reasons for that can vary… but this report recognizes that one thing that has to happen is that parents need to take on a greater responsibility in insuring their children’s access to the health care system.”
The Pennsylvania Partnership for Children hopes to review the same data yearly to keep tabs on how well the Affordable Care Act is doing in getting more of the state's youth into the health care system. However, Race said there is one area that the Partnership will have a hard time tracking. “There is a troubling lack of information on children’s behavioral health, their mental and emotional health, and that includes areas such as depression and anxiety disorders and autism,” said Race.
The Partnership said it will put pressure on the state to gather and publish more data on the mental health of Pennsylvania's children.