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The $60.42 answer to the question of helping children with asthma

Submitted by on Wednesday, 2 December 2009 No Comment

With a callous eye toward the bottom line, insurance companies unhesitantly ax coverage for medications asthmatic children need. Don’t deny it. It’s happened to us.

If executives won’t shell out $300 to prevent an emergency room visit that could easily cost five times that amount, maybe they’ll agree to pay $60.42 a month for something that’s proven to reduce wheezing, other asthma complications and emergency room visits.

According to research published this month in Pediatrics, that something is a parent mentor, assigned meet monthly with families at community sites and in their homes. The mentors also phone the families regularly.

In addition to healthier children and lower ER use, the program also boosted parents’ abilities to treat asthma at home. There also was a net savings of $46 a month for the parents – that doesn’t count the savings for insurance companies or hospitals.

The mentors were experienced parents of asthmatic children who received some additional training. They were people who could understand every concern, clear up every misconception and calm many fears of the other parents because they’ve been there.

Asthma is a tricky disease. Left uncontrolled, it can be fatal. When treated with the proper medications and care, though, it can be reduced to the level of an occasional problem. That’s the part that throws off many asthmatics, particularly when they’re new to dealing with it. They’ll drop their guard after worry-free weeks or months, and then they’ll get hit again.

Asthma requires vigilance and watchful eye for signs of trouble. That sounds simple, but for some it’s hard to learn to recognize those signs until trouble has hit full force. It’s a challenge for some people to even tell the difference between wheezing and normal coughing or huffing and puffing from exertion.

That’s why the mentors were so valuable. They can help parents learn these things – lessons that can protect their children and save money.

We’ve long known that in-home intervention helps with many childhood problems. It’s been more than 30 years since Dr. David Olds created a program that sent nurses into homes to mentor struggling parents. The Nurse-Family Partnership has been an unequivocal success in the decades since in terms of reducing the need for public aid and instances of child abuse.

Johns Hopkins University is beginning research to see if in-home nurses would have the same impact for asthmatics as they did for other at-risk children.

That seems a little re-inventing the wheelish given the results the University of Texas researchers already have published in Pediatrics, but I’m sure it will take more than once to convince insurance companies to foot the bill.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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