Children's health care
addressed at discussion
Almost 1.5 million
children in Texas are without health care
By Mauryzia Wong
Daily Cougar Staff
The UH Health Law and Policy Institute
played host to a panel discussion on the current status of children's health
care on Thursday.
The panel, moderated by institute director
and law professor Mary Anne Bobinski, featured economics professor John
Antel, Graduate School of Social Work Dean Ira Colbey, optometry associate
professor Karen Fern and psychology professor Kathleen Sheridan.
Colby addressed access to and eligibility
for health care coverage of poor children. He said 1.4 million children
in Texas, including 280,000 in Harris County, have no health insurance.
He added that, of the state total, 1.2 million children have at least one
parent working full time.
"So what is it that we expect when we have
people who are working but still cannot afford or have access to health
insurance?" he said.
Johnny Kow/The Daily Cougar
Mary Anne Bobinski, director
of the UH Law Center Health Law and Policy Institute, economics professor
John Antel, Ira Colby, dean of the Graduate School of Social Work, optometry
professor Karen Fern and psychology professor Kathleen Sheridan addressed
the problems of health care coverage for Texas children.
Fern addressed the access that preschool
children have to vision care. She said that children are underserved in
this area, a problem recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Fern said it is estimated that only 10
percent of preschoolers undergo complete vision exams, and only one-third
even have a vision screening. She said that the vision screenings that
are performed are not effective at detecting vision anomalies.
She added that there is little follow-up,
with Texas Department of Health statistics showing that fewer than half
of the children failing screenings have any type of follow-up at all.
Sheridan discussed the issue of chronic
illnesses among children. She said that 10 to 15 percent of children under
the age of 18 have been diagnosed with some type of chronic illness. She
said the most prevalent chronic illnesses among children include asthma,
diabetes, sickle cell disease, and HIV infection.
She discussed problems in regards to understanding
how the families of chronically ill children cope. She said that the majority
of studies conducted have neglected fathers while focusing on mothers and
their coping mechanisms.
She also said that with the exceptions
of pediatric oncology and rehabilitation, few ongoing support programs
are in place for the children and their families.
Antel addressed cost-benefit issues in
children's access to health care. He said research economists have learned
that early interventions are beneficial.
Colby, addressing access issues, said that
the two programs in Texas geared toward uninsured children are the Children's
Health Insurance Program, for families above the poverty line, and Medicaid,
for families at or below the poverty line.
Colby said 600,000 children in Texas are
Medicaid-eligible and 500,000 are CHIP-eligible.
He said children under five years old in
families over the poverty line may still qualify for Medicaid, resulting
in families with one child in one program and another child in the other
However, the cumbersome process of completing
forms for the different programs and the time involved may ultimately affect
access in families with one child who qualifies for one program and one
who qualifies for the other, he said.
Medicaid requires the completion of 16
to 59 different eligibility and verification forms every six months. CHIP
requires one to five forms to be filled out every 12 months.
"Medicaid creates barriers," he said.
Additionally, Medicaid eligibility in Texas
does not allow ownership of multiple vehicles, pension plans or savings
accounts. Colby said that poor people are told that they have to save but
if they do, they are no longer eligible for various government programs.
"They are blamed on the one hand for not
doing something," he said, "but conversely, doing something makes them
ineligible for healthcare."