Another big national study is showing that children enrolled in public health insurance programs are more likely to receive at least one annual doctor visit than kids on private insurance plans.

The comparative study of public and private insurance coverage for children was published in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics. It also found that children in public insurance plans such as Medicaid and the Childrens Health Insurance Plan, are more likely than kids privately insured through their parents' employers to receive medical advice on healthy eating, exercise, impact of smoking in the home, and use of car safety seats and belts and use of bicycle helmets.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, which published the study, recommends that parents be counseled by a medical professional on these five categories annually.

The disparity can't immediately be explained, the study authors said, but they noted money could have something to do with it.

Privately insured children are likely to have some out-of-pocket costs associated with preventive care visits. Children who have Medicaid and CHIP do not.

Receiving preventive care and health education is required for children covered by Medicaid.

The authors write that, while the study's findings suggest that enrollment in public health programs could increase access to preventive health care and advice for children, "the results also suggest that insurance coverage alone will not ensure that all children receive this important advice."

This new study simply adds to a large body of research that shows children who are insured receive more consistent medical treatment, said Karen Crompton, executive director of Voices for Utah Children, an advocacy and health policy research group. "And those who get consistent treatment get more effective care — more accurate diagnoses, reduced emergency department use, fewer hospitalizations and have fewer unmet medical needs — all of which reduce the cost of their care."

Providing more effective care is a goal that's been in the national consciousness for at least 40 years. In 1967, Congress broadened Medicaid for children because of the high rejection rates among new military draftees.

Similar research was a key factor in the approval of the Medicaid expansion. A 1964 report, "One Third of a Nation," showed the health problems among draftees were manifestations of one thing — improper basic health care during childhood.

Utah is attempting to beef up its effort to ensure that the allegation is never made about Utah kids by expanding enrollment in CHIP.

House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, has proposed allowing all uninsured and financially eligible children in Utah to enroll in the joint state and federal insurance plan.

"Kids can't ensure themselves," Crompton said, adding that getting the health care they need shouldn't be contingent on the job a parent has or an employer's decisions about the affordability of health care. Insuring children provides them with cost-efficient, quality care. Keeping them insured reduces costs."

Lawmakers have overwhelming support for CHIP expansion among their constituents. A poll conducted a year ago for Voices indicated that 82 percent of Utahns said they would either strongly support (61 percent) or somewhat favor (21 percent) some kind of plan to ensure that all children in the state have health insurance.

When asked about CHIP specifically, the support among respondents was 4 percentage points higher.

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