Sick kids and statistics


I remember the wheezing in the night and turning on the shower and filling up the bathroom with steam. I remember a weird rash that wasn’t measles or chicken pox or anything I recognized. I remember a high temperature and a listless baby who wouldn’t or couldn’t drink. I remember the panic that grew inside me each and every time one of our children was sick with something we couldn’t identify.

I told myself, “Probably it’s nothing. Probably she’ll be okay.” But — that’s my baby, that’s my child, and the panic just grew.

We had insurance. There was never any question. When our children were sick with some scary and non-routine symptoms, they went to the doctor or to urgent care or to the emergency room. Usually, we went home with a prescription or just reassurance. When a hospital stay was needed, there was no hesitation. As I said, we had insurance.

I can barely imagine the panic for the parents of an estimated 71,000 Minnesota children who have no insurance. The number, according to the latest Kids Count Data Book, climbed by 17 percent from 2008 to 2010. That still leaves us in pretty good shape compared to other states. We are seventh among the states in child health, and fifth in overall child well-being — though that’s the first time in the ten years of reporting that Minnesota has not been one of the top three.

For the parents of those 70,000 uninsured children, however, Minnesota’s relatively good status doesn’t mean much. For some of them, the good news came from the State Capitol,

with the announcement of an expansion of MinnesotaCare to cover 16,000 previously uninsured children.

The very poorest children in the state are covered by Medicaid. Those whose parents have jobs with benefits are covered by insurance. This expansion of MinnesotaCare will cover some 16,000 children who previously fell in between the poorest children on Medicaid and the better-off children with health insurance. 

According to a press release from State Representative Paul Thissen,

Children from families with incomes below 200% of federal poverty guidelines ($30,264/year for a household of two and $46,104/year for a household of four) will no longer face barriers to coverage such as the four-month waiting period and access to employer-subsidized health insurance and will be eligible for MinnesotaCare without premiums. In addition, all children will be eligible for MinnesotaCare.

That’s good news for Minnesota hospitals, too. They have to provide emergency care, even for people without insurance or resources to pay. Emergency room care is the most expensive form of care, but for parents and children without health insurance, it’s often the only care they can get. The press release said that, according to the Minnesota Department of Health, the cost of that uncompensated care was $311 million in 2010, “the highest in state history.” As State Representative Paul Thissen noted in the press release, “Those costs are passed on to Minnesotans who have health insurance in the form of higher costs and higher health insurance premiums.”

So — good news today for children, parents and hospitals. And a reminder that we still have tens of thousands of children, and hundreds of thousands of adults in this wonderful state who go without insurance — and that’s not healthy for any of us.