Lack of adequate health care may have contributed to the deaths of some 17,000 US children over the past two decades, according to a study released by the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.
The research, to be published Friday in the Journal of Public Health, was compiled from more than 23 million hospital records from 37 states between 1988 and 2005.
The study concluded that children without health insurance are far more likely to succumb to their illnesses than those with medical coverage.
"If you are a child without insurance, if you're seriously ill and end up in the hospital, you are 60 percent more likely to die than the sick child in the next town who has insurance," said Fizan Abdullah, lead writer of the study and a pediatric surgeon at Hopkins.
With some seven million children in the United States currently uninsured, the problem needed addressing immediately, the report said.
"In a country as wealthy as ours, the need to provide health care to the millions of children who lack it is a moral, not an economic imperative," said Peter Pronovost, director of critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins.
The study was published as the United States finds itself embroiled in a fierce debate on increasing health care access for uninsured Americans.
US President Barack Obama wants Congress to approve reforms by the end of the year in order to fulfil a key campaign pledge to provide health care to some 47 million Americans, 15 percent of the population, who currently do not have any medical coverage.
Obama says his plans will cut in half runaway healthcare expenditures which, if unchecked, are forecast to gobble up one-fifth of US gross domestic product by 2013.
He has been advocating a government insurance option as a key element of his plans, which have been fiercely criticized by Republicans who charge that they amount to an exorbitantly expensive government takeover of health care.