Access to quality health care is possible for all children

October 8, 2005

Health care for children is at a tipping point. That's the warning issued by American Academy of Pediatrics' President Carol Berkowitz, MD, who addressed an audience of almost 2,000 pediatricians today at the AAP National Conference and Exhibition today in Washington, D.C.

Health care for children is at a tipping point. That's the warning issued by American Academy of Pediatrics' President Carol Berkowitz, MD, who addressed an audience of almost 2,000 pediatricians today at the AAP National Conference and Exhibition today in Washington, D.C.

"Our challenge is: In which direction do we tip? Does the system implode and health care become more expensive and less accessible, with greater gaps in the quality chasm?" asked Dr. Berkowitz. "Or do we finally achieve universal access for all children to quality healthcare in a medical home?"

This past year, both Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) have been severely threatened. These two programs provide insurance coverage for more than 30 million children?nearly 40% of the nation's young people. The administration has proposed a budget that includes $60 billion in cuts to Medicaid over the next five years. According to Dr. Berkowitz, the AAP has formed powerful coalitions with other medical societies to address the health-care disparity issues that too many American children face.

Dr. Berkowitz expressed hope that the AAP's creative approaches will help ease the situation. One way to help reduce costs so that more children gain access to care would be to successfully implement the use of e-prescribing for all practices. This would also help improve the quality of health care and decrease the risk of medical error.

Dr. Berkowitz explained that access and insurance aren't synonymous. There are insured children who lack access to all the services and care they need. Several new vaccines are about to be released, for example, but pediatricians may not be able to distribute them because there is no guarantee that the supply of the vaccine will be stable and sufficient or that insurance companies will reimburse them for the cost. Dr. Berkowitz proposed that no vaccine be approved for use until availability and cost are considered. This could help close the gap in the rate of immunization between children with private insurance and those in the public sector.