When insurance status is not static: insurance transitions of low-income children and implications for health and health care

Ambul Pediatr. 2004 May-Jun;4(3):237-43. doi: 10.1367/A03-103R.1.


Objectives: Among low-income children, to characterize the frequency of transitions in health insurance coverage and examine associations of transitions with health status and health care access.

Methods: Data from the 1999 National Survey of America's Families were used in weighted analyses to identify sociodemographic characteristics associated with health insurance transitions for children living in households with income <200% of the federal poverty level over the preceding 12 months. In logistic regression models, we examined associations of insurance transitions with children's health status (fair/poor health), postponement of children's medical care or prescription medications, and lack of physician visits.

Results: Among 27.93 million low-income children in 1999, 5.7 million (20.4%) had experienced an insurance transition in the preceding year. Non-Hispanic black children (24.5%) and children whose parents did not have a partner or spouse (23.5%) were significantly more likely than other children to have experienced transitions. Hispanic children (16%) were least likely to have experienced transitions. Compared with children with continuous private coverage, children who had transitioned from public to private coverage were more likely to report fair or poor health, children who experienced transitions that included a period of no coverage were more likely to report postponed medical care and prescription drugs, and children who experienced a no-coverage-to-private-coverage transition were more likely to have foregone physician visits.

Conclusion: Transitions in insurance coverage affect many low-income children and may represent barriers to their health care. Considering insurance transitions may provide a more complete picture of children's health and health care utilization.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Delivery of Health Care / economics
  • Delivery of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage / statistics & numerical data*
  • Insurance, Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Poverty
  • United States