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CDC: Children who lack health insurance lack care Posted: December 20th, 2012

By Beth Orenstein

Beth Orenstein is a freelance writer. She covers health and business topics.

Five million American children (7 percent) had no health insurance in 2011, according to a national survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That's slightly better than the 6 million (8 percent) of children who had no health insurance the same survey found in 2010.

Children's health can be affected by not only whether they have health insurance but also what type of insurance they have.

The 2011 survey found that children with private health insurance were more likely to be in excellent health (64 percent) than children with Medicaid or other public coverage (46 percent).

Where children seek care

In 2011, almost all children in the U.S. (97 percent) had a place where they usually went for their medical care. For children with private health insurance, that place was likely a doctor's office (85 percent). For children who were on Medicaid or had other public coverage, the number who used a doctor's office for their usual care dropped to 62 percent. Four percent of children who did not have health insurance used the emergency room as their doctor's office, the survey found.

Having health insurance also determines how frequently children seek medical care. More than three-quarters of children with private health insurance or Medicaid had contact with a doctor or other health professional in the past six months compared with only half of children with no insurance coverage.

Family income may determine whether children were likely to have insurance. According to the survey, children from poorer families were least likely to have health insurance:

Ten percent of children in families with an income less than $35,000 and 11 percent of children in families with an income of $35,000 to $49,999 had no health insurance. By comparison, only 2 percent of children in families with incomes of $100,000 or more had no health insurance.

Slight improvement from 2010

Those numbers were slightly improved from the 2010 survey. The 2010 survey found that 12 percent of children in families with an income less than $35,000 and 12 percent of children in families with an income of $35,000-$49,999 had no health insurance. The number of children from families with an income of $100,000 or more who had no health insurance stayed the same: 2 percent.

Having health insurance is key because in 2011 about 1.3 million children (2 percent) were unable to get needed medical care because their family could not afford it, and medical care for 2.5 million children (3 percent) was delayed because of worries about the cost.

Without insurance, children weren't likely to receive dental care either. In 2011, 4 million (6 percent) of children aged 2-17 had unmet dental need because their families could not afford dental care.

The survey was conducted for the CDC by the U.S. Census Bureau and is taken annually.