Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 342-351

First online:

Insurance Coverage Gaps Among US Children with Insured Parents: Are Middle Income Children More Likely to Have Longer Gaps?

  • Jennifer E. DeVoeAffiliated withDepartment of Family Medicine, Oregon Health and Science University Email author 
  • , Carrie J. TillotsonAffiliated withOregon Health and Science University
  • , Lorraine S. WallaceAffiliated withDepartment of Family Medicine, University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine

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Millions of US children have unstable health insurance coverage. Some of these uninsured children have parents with stable coverage. We examined whether household income was associated with longer coverage gaps among US children with at least one insured parent. A secondary data analysis of the nationally-representative 2004 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, this study uses logistic regression models to examine the association between income and children’s insurance gaps. We focused on children with at least one parent insured all year (n = 6,151; estimated weighted N = 53.5 million). In multivariate models, children from families earning between 125 and 400% of the federal poverty level (FPL) had twice the odds of experiencing coverage gaps >6 months, as compared to those from high income families. Children in the poorest income groups (<125% FPL) did not have significantly greater odds of a gap >6 months. However, the odds of a gap ≤6 months were significantly greater for all income groups below 400% FPL, when compared to the highest income group. Among children with continuously insured parents, those from lower middle income families were most vulnerable to experiencing coverage gaps >6 months, as compared to those from the lowest and highest income families. These findings are likely due to middle class earnings being too high to qualify for public insurance but not high enough to afford private coverage. This study highlights the need for new US health care financing models that give everyone in the family the best chance to obtain stable coverage. It also provides valuable information to other countries with employer-sponsored insurance models or those considering privatization of insurance payment systems and how this might disproportionately impact the middle class.


Child health Health insurance Discontinuous health insurance coverage Access to healthcare Medicaid SCHIP Health policy