Improving Access to Health Care
Children without health insurance are less likely to have preventive health care visits than those with insurance. As a result, uninsured children with chronic or acute illnesses that may be easily treated in physicians’ offices remain untreated until the conditions become serious enough to require emergency room care or hospitalization. Such preventable hospitalizations account for millions of dollars in unnecessary expenditures.
Milwaukee Public Schools is the largest public school district of the 426 in the state of Wisconsin, and the student population within this district is disproportionately from low-income families. Faculty and staff in the Center for the Advancement of Underserved Children conducted a study during the 2002-2003 school year to see if there was a correlation between participation in the Free or Reduced Lunch program and whether the family had health insurance. The study found that 71 percent of children (65,359) attending Milwaukee Public Schools applied for and were eligible for Federal Reduced Lunch program (an indication of low-income status of less than 185% of the federal poverty level). It also showed that there has been an 8 to11 percent increase in participation the Child Nutrition Program in MPS over the last 10 years. The study found that only 40 percent of the income-eligible children were insured during the first quarter of 2003, another 35 percent were not insured and 25 percent were not in any government-supported system.
Creating options for low-income-eligible children to enroll efficiently in government-sponsored health is a key public policy issue to be addressed. Factors that could contribute to low participation rates for these income-eligible children include poor outreach, cumbersome enrollment processes and lack of knowledge of programs availability. Faculty and staff in the Center continue to work within the community to address these issues on a local level.