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Matern Child Health J. 2009 Mar;13(2):176-86. doi: 10.1007/s10995-008-0346-0. Epub 2008 May 16.

The influence of health insurance on parent's reports of children's unmet mental health needs.

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The purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence of unmet mental health needs in children identified by parents as having long-term emotional and behavioral problems, to identify the characteristics of these children, and to evaluate the influence of health insurance status and type on the odds of reporting unmet mental health needs.


We used the National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs (NSCSHCN) to estimate the prevalence of unmet mental health needs among children with long-term emotional/behavioral conditions. Using logistic regression models, we also assessed the independent impact of insurance status and type on unmet needs.


Analyses indicated that of the nearly 67% of children who needed mental health care or counseling in the previous 12 months, 20% did not receive it. Moreover, parents of uninsured children were more likely to report unmet mental health needs than insured children. Parents of children covered by public health insurance programs (Medicaid, Children Health Insurance Program-CHIP, Title V, Military, Native American) were less likely to report unmet mental health needs than those with children covered by private health insurance plans.


Results from this study suggest a need for expansion of health insurance coverage to children especially those with long-term mental health conditions. It also suggests a need for parity between mental and physical health benefits in private health insurance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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