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VOLUME 43 | NUMBER 1.2 | FEBRUARY 2008


Uninsurance among Children Whose Parents Are Losing Medicaid Coverage: Results from a Statewide Survey of Oregon Families

Context. Thousands of adults lost coverage after Oregon's Medicaid program implemented cost containment policies in March 2003. Despite the continuation of comprehensive public health coverage for children, the percentage of uninsured children in the state rose from 10.1 percent in 2002 to 12.3 percent in 2004 (over 110,000 uninsured children). Among the uninsured children, over half of them were likely eligible for public health insurance coverage.

Research Objective. To examine barriers low-income families face when attempting to access children's health insurance. To examine possible links between Medicaid cutbacks in adult coverage and children's loss of coverage.

Data Source/Study Setting. Statewide primary data from low-income households enrolled in Oregon's food stamp program.

Study Design. Cross-sectional analysis. The primary predictor variable was whether or not any adults in the household recently lost Medicaid coverage. The main outcome variables were children's current insurance status and children's insurance coverage gaps.

Data Collection. A mail-return survey instrument was designed to collect information from a stratified, random sample of households with children presumed eligible for publicly funded health insurance programs.

Principal Findings. Over 10 percent of children in the study population eligible for publicly funded health insurance programs were uninsured, and over 25 percent of these children had gaps in insurance coverage during a 12-month period. Low-income children who were most likely to be uninsured or have coverage gaps were Hispanic; were teenagers older than 14; were in families at the higher end of the income threshold; had an employed parent; or had a parent who was uninsured. Fifty percent of the uninsured children lived in a household with at least one adult who had recently lost Medicaid coverage, compared with only 40 percent of insured children (p=.040). Similarly, over 51 percent of children with a recent gap in insurance coverage had an adult in the household who lost Medicaid, compared with only 38 percent of children without coverage gaps (p<.0001). After adjusting for ethnicity, age, household income, and parental employment, children living in a household with an adult who lost Medicaid coverage after recent cutbacks had a higher likelihood of having no current health insurance (OR 1.44, 95 percent CI 1.02, 2.04), and/or having an insurance gap (OR 1.79, 95 percent CI 1.36, 2.36).

Conclusions. Uninsured children and those with recent coverage gaps were more likely to have adults in their household who lost Medicaid coverage after recent cutbacks. Although current fiscal constraints prevent many states from expanding public health insurance coverage to more parents, states need to be aware of the impact on children when adults lose coverage. It is critical to develop strategies to keep parents informed regarding continued eligibility and benefits for their children and to reduce administrative barriers to children's enrollment and retention in public health insurance programs.

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