Doctors regularly deny or delay appointments for children with public insurance — many of whom have disabilities — even when those kids have urgent medical needs, new research shows.

For a study appearing in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine, researchers telephoned 273 practices of specialty doctors in the Chicago area posing as moms who wanted to make an appointment for a child with a serious ailment such as diabetes or seizures. They called each practice twice — one month apart — providing the same details except for insurance type.

What they found was a strikingly different reaction from doctors’ offices depending solely on insurance coverage. When Medicaid was cited as the child’s insurance provider, the researchers were not able to get an appointment two-thirds of the time. That number dropped to just 11 percent when researchers said the child had private insurance.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Moreover, when publicly-insured children were offered an appointment with a specialist, they had to wait an average of 44 days, more than twice as long as kids with private insurance.

“We found disturbing disparities in specialty physicians’ willingness to provide outpatient care for children with public insurance — even those with urgent and severe health problems,” said study author Dr. Karin Rhodes of the University of Pennsylvania. “This study shows a failure to care for our most vulnerable children.”

While the research focused on medical providers in one Illinois county, those behind the study say that the findings are likely indicative of experiences nationally. The reason, they suspect, is that Medicaid offers lower reimbursement rates to doctors than private insurance companies.

Read more stories like this one. Sign up for Disability Scoop's free email newsletter to get the latest developmental disability news sent straight to your inbox.