Background and objectives: Recent policy changes have affected access to health insurance for families in the United States. Private health insurance premiums have increased, and state Medicaid programs have cut back coverage for adults. Concurrently, the Children's Health Insurance Program has made public insurance available to more children. We aimed to better understand how child and parent health insurance coverage patterns may have changed as a result of these policies.
Methods: We analyzed data from the nationally representative Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, comparing cohorts from 2003 and 2008. We assessed cross-sectional and full-year coverage patterns for child/parent pairs, stratified by income. We conducted chi-square tests to assess significant differences in coverage over time.
Results: Middle-income child/parent pairs had the most significant changes in their coverage patterns. For example, those with full-year health insurance coverage significantly decreased from 85.4% in 2003 to 80.6% in 2008. There was also an increase in uninsured middle-income child/parent pairs for the full year (5.6% in 2003 to 8.3% in 2008) and an increase in pairs who had a gap in coverage (9.7% in 2003 to 13.0% in 2008).
Conclusions: The percentage of middle-income child/parent pairs who were lacking insurance, for part or all of the year, has risen, suggesting that these families may be caught between affording private coverage and being eligible for public coverage. Unless private coverage becomes more affordable, insurance instability among middle-income families may persist despite the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.