Children’s health insurance plan gets rave reviews

Filed under: Health Care |

Survey results were released last week about the success of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which Congress is debating whether to reauthorize.
The program works to reduce the number of uninsured, low-income children in the United States.
More than 90 percent of survey respondents said they believed the coverage should be expanded and made available to the children of legal immigrants.
An additional 80 percent believe that states should be allowed to extend coverage to parents of children in those states where there is no comprehensive coverage for the uninsured.
Health care officials favor expansion, but they also support provisions that would provide high-quality care to all children. Four out of five respondents said they want federal performance standards established, and 69 percent favor measuring and reporting about the frequency and quality of developmental screening.
Opinion leaders also support innovative mechanisms to encourage insurance plans and health care providers serving SCHIP families to provide higher quality care, with 78 percent requiring states to reward managed care plans and providers that meet benchmark levels of performance.
It would cost an additional $12 billion to $15 billion during the next five years to maintain the current level of services provided under SCHIP.
About a third of health care leaders surveyed said financing should come from raising federal taxes or fees, while 27 percent say money should be redirected from other programs. Nearly 25 percent said an exception should be made to the “pay-go” rule for coverage of children. However, only 3 percent support retaining the current allocation as a financing solution.
The survey is the 10th in a series from The Commonwealth Fund and the second conducted in partnership with the publication Modern Healthcare.
Opinion leaders surveyed include experts from four health care sectors, health care delivery, business, insurance and academia and research organizations.

Calcium and vitamin D

Postmenopausal women who take calcium and vitamin D supplements might gain less weight than those who do not, although the overall effect is small, according to a report by a Kaiser Permanente research scientist.
The study included 36,282 postmenopausal women ages 50 to 79 who were enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative clinical trial. It found that those who took daily calcium and vitamin D supplements during a seven-year period weighed an average 0.28 pounds less and were less likely to gain weight than women who received placebos.
The greatest benefits were seen in women who began the study with inadequate calcium intakes — those consuming less than the recommended 1,200 milligrams per day. These women were found to be 11 percent less likely to experience small weight gains, from 2.2 to 6.6 pounds after three years and 11 percent less likely to gain more moderate amounts of weight. more than 6.6 pounds.
“While this study shows that calcium and vitamin D supplements appear to have some small benefits when it comes to controlling weight, women clearly should continue practicing the basic tenets of weight management — that is monitoring calories in their diets and getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day,” said Bette Caan, a senior epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente’s division of research.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of women ages 50 to 79 who are obese increased by nearly 50 percent during the 1990s.
Previous studies have shown that calcium and vitamin D supplements, as well as foods rich in these nutrients, may play a role in effective weight management. One explanation is that calcium and vitamin D work together to regulate metabolism. In addition, calcium may help decrease fatty acid absorption in the intestine.
Caan said the latest study findings do not justify altering dietary recommendations and that postmenopausal women should continue to be advised to consume 1,200 miligrams a day of calcium as recommended by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences.

Women paying more

Women with health insurance are more likely than insured men to go without needed health care — because of costs.
That’s according to a study by the Commonwealth Fund, which also found a higher percentage of women struggle with medical bills.
The study showed that women are at a disadvantage because they have greater health care needs and lower incomes than men. The report found that 38 percent of women struggle with medical bills, compared to 29 percent of men. And the high cost of health care services and premiums forces many women to go without needed care — even if they have insurance.
According to the study, 33 percent of insured women and 68 percent of women without insurance don’t get needed health care. In contrast, 23 percent of insured men and 49 percent of uninsured men avoid care because of costs.
Other factors that contribute to this gender gap include: women are slightly more likely than men to purchase coverage in the individual insurance market, which is often more expensive and less comprehensive. Women also are more likely to take prescription medication.
Amy Gillentine covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.