Study: Doctors Denying Specialty Care for Low-Income Children

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Your Black World.

The University of Pennsylvania conducted a study with callers posing as mothers seeking to obtain pediatric specialty care for their children.  It was found that two-thirds of all children on public insurance were refused by doctors, while only 11 percent of children with private insurance were refused.

The disparity didn’t end with a lower likelihood of obtaining appointments.  The study also found that even when low-income kids were able to get an appointment, they had to wait much longer to see the doctor than children with private insurance.  Even children with very serious conditions, such as diabetes, asthma or a bone fracture had to wait an average of 42 days to see the doctor.  Children with private insurance only had to wait an average of 22 days.

“I was disturbed to find this level of disparity,” said senior author Karin V. Rhodes, a Penn emergency-medicine physician and health-policy researcher.

One doesn’t have to be a researcher to understand how sad and sickening it is that we are making young children suffer under the weight of a money-hungry healthcare system.  One of the greatest mistakes our country ever made was to allow our healthcare system to be controlled by the ruthless and insatiable beast of American capitalism.

Capitalism doesn’t care if you live or die, it is only concerned about the profitability of the most recent quarterly statement.  Therefore, if it costs too much to keep you healthy, then the system will deny you what you need in order to exist.  When the dust settles, we have people dying every day because they can’t afford expensive medical procedures, and senior citizens choosing between buying medication and purchasing food.  President Obama’s overhaul could be a step in the right direction, but after pacifying the greedy insurance companies, hospitals and drug manufacturers, our children are left with nothing but 1,000 pages of political afterbirth.

At some point, our nation must find the courage to realign its values with our quest for economic prosperity.  We are taught from an early age that human life has infinite value; that we should be willing to spend any amount of money in order to keep someone alive.  But if our capitalist systems put a price on human life, we find ourselves in consistent contradiction to all that makes us human or even Christian (or Muslim, Jewish, etc.).  We must do better for our children.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World coalition.  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.


  • alf

    I was just wondering how a doctor, who has taken the hippocratic oath,   can justify treating children differently based on whether or not they have insurance?  AIthough I am sure that there is truth in this statement, but I am thankful that I have not personally witnessed this in regards to my grandchildren.  My granddaughter recently had her elbow dislocated.  The was attended to promptly, at the ER,  even though her treatment  was paid for by the state. 

    • Hotdog090

      If you take a stand against the administration (which is insurance companies and other political powerhouses) if you are a doctor, nurse, whatever, you risk being blackballed. Despite all the years of training and expertise, it all becomes inconsequential if you fail to play the game.

  • Meanchick

    The almighty dollar outweighs everything for some. One doctor told me that he needed to pay for his kids to go to college and my insurance wouldn’t do that. If I could afford him, I wouldn’t go back to him. I overheard a doctor’s wife complaining that his patients were low income and that she had to start shopping at budget stores like poor people. I wondered at that point about the intentions of people who become doctors and lawyers. Is it just for the money? And if so, you lied when you took the oath.

  • Hotdog090

    I am a young black male RN who has practiced since the age of 23 (now 27 going on 28). After obtaining my BSN it is extremely apparent of the healthcare disparities amongst all minorities in comparison to whites (which in this society equates to wealthy). The best way to combat these ills is multifaceted:
     1. Encourage our black youth to go into the healthcare profession.
      2. Hold public health fair highlighting the ills of our communities and giving clear explanation as to how they effect us.
     3. Promote holistic remedies as opposed to medical.
     4. Prevent health care ills as opposed to treating them.