, Volume 81, Issue 4, pp 568-583

The impact of insurance lapse among low-income children

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Abstract

Children living in poverty not only have disproportionately more health problems, but also have disproportionately lower health care service utilization. Change, whether in health care delivery system or in family living situation, may interfere with or jeopardize insurance status and thereby influence access to health care services. We hypothesized that children who have maintained Medicaid insurance compared to those who have not will be more likely to have preventive care visits and less likely to have emergency room visits. We further hypothesized that transient situations such as homeless episodes, foster care placement, and living in more than one location in the same 1-year period will contribute to loss in Medicaid coverage. This retrospective cohort study was conducted at an urban children’s hospital outpatient clinic at which 210 family respondents were recruited over a 1-year period. An in-person interview containing several standardized instruments was administered to the caregiver. In addition, children’s medical records were retrospectively abstracted from point of study entry to first contact. Findings indicated that children who lost Medicaid coverage, compared to others, had significantly fewer preventive care health visits. There were no differences in emergency room visits. Transient situations did not appear to influence preventive or emergency room care. In addition, the change into a managed-care delivery system also increased loss of coverage. Loss of coverage may be a barrier to preventive care services. To ensure optimal preventive care services, the onus is on the providers and plants to facilitate continued insurance coverage.