Insurance, Wealth and Eye Care

Like the rest of the body, the eyes require regular checkups to in order to stay in good condition. Unfortunately, many people neglect their health, leading to the appearance of completely avoidable health woes. The same types of unnecessary problems can also develop in children.

Less Money, Less Doctor Visits?

A 2016 study determined that numerous middle and lower-income children as their more affluent counterparts. This report cast a very wide net, examining data from nearly 900,000 children from 2001 to 2014. While the socio-economic status of these children’s families varied, they all had the same type of health insurance coverage.

Despite having identical healthcare, the authors found that wealthier children visited eye care professionals far more often than those from poorer backgrounds. Compared to middle- wealth children, the researchers determined that children from the wealthiest families visited eye care providers 19% more frequently. Likewise, the study’s least affluent subjects went to such healthcare professionals 16% less often. Some other notable findings from this report are listed below:

  • In comparison to the middle-income youths, the subjects in the wealthiest group were 19% likelier to visit an eye doctor for the first time.
  • By the age of 10, subjects from the wealthiest backgrounds were 64% likelier than the poorest children to be diagnosed with strabismus, or crossed eyes. For amblyopia, or lazy eye, the gap between these two groups was 55%.

A Big Blind Spot

Given the preceding findings, the authors contend that tens of thousands of cases of strabismus and amblyopia have gone undiagnosed in the United States. The team contends that their own group of subjects features 13,000 missed strabismus diagnoses and 5,000 missed amblyopia diagnoses, which developed over a period of ten years.

In response to the study’s findings, lead author Dr. Joshua Stein opined that, among less wealthy households, “it may be more difficult for parents to take time off from work to take their children to an eye care professional, compared with more affluent families.” Stein also expressed the importance of early diagnosing eye problems early on, before they worsen into more serious issues. “The earlier in life strabismus is detected and properly treated, the less likely the eye will become ‘lazy’ and the more likely any vision loss that may have occurred can be reversed.” The research team published their work in the August 2016 issue of the journal Health Affairs.

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