Prescriptions for Health: Children without health insurance a growing problem in Maine

2 mins read

 Jay Naliboff, MD
Jay Naliboff, MD

The weekly Prescriptions for Health column is part of an ongoing community health education effort by Franklin Memorial Hospital to provide information on an important health topic by its medical staff, with support from intern Sam Bennett, a junior at the University of Maine at Farmington majoring in biology and creative writing.

By Jay Naliboff, MD

Maine has a child health crisis on its hands. In 2010, 4 percent of Maine children had no health insurance. In 2014 that percentage increased to 6 percent. This means that 16,000 Maine children are currently without health insurance. The real tragedy is that most of these children do qualify for insurance coverage.

The reason for this big drop? In 2012, the State of Maine changed its eligibility requirements for parents to receive MaineCare with the result that 28,000 Maine parents are no longer eligible. Even though the children of these parents may still receive MaineCare benefits, research has shown that parents without insurance are less likely to make sure that their children are insured.

What is the potential consequence of children not having health insurance? Uninsured adults and children have lower rates of preventative care and higher rates of emergency department visits, a more costly alternative. Since uninsured patients often are unable to pay their medical bills, the cost of bad debt and charity care increases the cost of health care for the rest of the population.

Parents who have lost their insurance should make every effort to determine if their children are still eligible. Ask the Maine Department of Human and Health Services, your primary care provider, or the Franklin Memorial Hospital financial counselors whether your children may still qualify for MaineCare coverage even if you don’t. Get them the preventative care they need.

Dr. Jay Naliboff practiced obstetrics and gynecology at Franklin Memorial Hospital for 32 years. He is currently Franklin Memorial Hospital vice president of medical affairs.

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