Patterns of Health Insurance Discontinuity and Children's Access to Health Care

Matern Child Health J. 2019 May;23(5):667-677. doi: 10.1007/s10995-018-2681-0.


Objectives This study classified patterns of discontinuous health insurance coverage, including change in coverage type and gaps in coverage, and described their associations with children's access to health care. Methods Using the 2011-2013 National Health Interview Survey data, we determined children's insurance coverage over the past year, and whether children had a usual source of care, had to delay getting care, or had unmet health care needs. Using multivariable logistic regression, we compared measures of access to care across insurance coverage patterns, classified as continuous private coverage; continuous public coverage; continuous lack of coverage; change in coverage type (public versus private) without gaps in coverage; and any gap in coverage. A subgroup analysis repeated this comparison for children with a caregiver-reported chronic physical illness. Results The analysis included 34,105 children, of whom 7% had a gap in coverage and 1% had a change in coverage type. On multivariable analysis, gaps in coverage were associated with increased likelihood of unmet health care needs, compared to continuous private (OR 6.9; 95% CI 5.9, 8.0) or continuous public coverage (OR 5.1; 95% CI 4.4, 6.0). Seamless changes in coverage were also associated with greater likelihood of unmet health care needs [OR vs. private: 3.8 (95% CI 2.3, 6.1); OR vs. public: 2.8 (95% CI 1.8, 4.6); all p < 0.001]. Results were similar for other study outcomes, and among children with chronic physical illness. Conclusions for Practice Both gaps in coverage and seamless changes between coverage types were associated with limited health care access for children.

Keywords: Health care access; Health insurance; Pediatric; Unmet health care needs.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / standards*
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Insurance Coverage / standards
  • Insurance Coverage / trends*
  • Insurance, Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Medically Uninsured / statistics & numerical data
  • Ohio