Objective: To examine the role of insurance coverage in protecting families of children with special health care needs (CSHCN) from the financial burden associated with care.
Methods: Data from the 2001 National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs were analyzed. We built 2 multivariate regression models by using "work loss/cut back" and "experiencing financial problems" as the dependent variables, and insurance status as the primary independent variable of interest while adjusting for income, race/ethnicity, functional limitation/severity, and other sociodemographic predictors.
Results: Approximately 29.9% of CSHCN live in families where their condition led parents to report cutting back on work or stopping work completely. Families of 20.9% of CSHCN reported experiencing financial difficulties due to the child's condition. Insurance coverage significantly reduced the likelihood of financial problems for families at every income level. The proportion of families experiencing financial problems was reduced from 35.7% to 23.0% for the poor and 44.9% to 24.5% for low-income families with continuous insurance coverage (P < .01 for both comparisons). Similarly, the proportion of parents having to cut back or stop work was reduced from 42.8% to 35.9% for the poor (P < .05) and 43.5% to 33.9% for low-income families (P < .01).
Conclusions: Continuous health insurance coverage provides protection from financial burden and hardship for families of CSHCN in all income groups. This evidence is supportive of policies designed to promote universal coverage for CSHCN. However, many poor and low-income families continue to experience work loss and financial problems despite insurance coverage. Hence, health insurance should not be viewed as a solution in itself, but instead as one element of a comprehensive strategy to provide financial safety for families with CSHCN.