The fact that children are covered by insurance is not enough to make sure kids get eye exams. A new study published last August by the University of Michigan indicates that children from less affluent homes, even when they are covered by health insurance, still are not as likely as other children to get vision screenings to identify conditions like lazy eye.
The researchers tracked health insurance claims for almost 900,000 children from birth through age 14. They were looking for how often kids at different income levels visited eye doctors and the diagnosis rates for stabismus (crossed eyes) and amblyopia (lazy eye).
The lower the income level the fewer eye care visits they found for those children in the study. Lower income children were also less likely to be diagnosed with strabismus or amblyopia than children from higher-income families. By age 10 3.6 percent of low income children were diagnosed with strabismus and and 2 percent with amblyopia. Diagnoses of these problems for kids in the highest income bracket were 50 to 100 percent greater.
The study estimates that the lack of eye care visits in lower income children resulted in 12,800 missed cases of strabismus and 5,400 missed cases of amblyopia.
The study’s lead author Dr. Joshua D. Stein concluded that less affluent parents may have more difficulty taking time off from work or face transportation challenges getting a child to an eye care provider. He also said that there may be fewer eye care providers available in less affluent areas.
The KidSight Colorado program offers the opportunity for a vision screening for all children in Colorado from six months through six years of age. Our program works in many underserved communities to make sure children receive an accurate instrument based vision screening. We also have a follow-up program to make sure that children receive the care that they need. Our statistics validate the results of the study - there are many more barriers to getting care for low income families and it is difficult for us to ensure appropriate care is received.
At KidSight Colorado we will continue to seek additional resoources and follow-up to make sure every child gets needed care. We especially want to thank our major partner the Lions Clubs of Colorado who play a major role in helping our program succeed.