Each year, approximately 2.3 million children, mostly from low- to middle-income families, have no healthcare coverage to pay for preventive or other medical needs, even though at least one of their parents is insured, according to a study published in the Oct. 22/29 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association. This demographic accounts for a quarter of the estimated nine million uninsured U.S. children.
The new study is one of the first to examine the characteristics of uninsured children under the age of 19 whose parents were insured all year. The Health & Human Services’ (HHS) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the National Center for Research Resources, part of HHS' National Institutes of Health, supported the study.
Jennifer DeVoe, MD, of the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Ore., and colleagues studied 2002-2005 national data from AHRQ’s Medical Expenditure Panel survey. They found that children from low-income families, where at least one parent had health insurance, were more than twice as likely to be uninsured at some point during the year as were similar children from high-income families.
The researchers found that they were also 73 percent more likely to be uninsured for more than six months. In 2005, a typical, low-income family of four earned between roughly $24,000 and $39,000, whereas the typical high-income family of four earned more than $77,000 a year.
Children from middle-income families—those earning between $39,000 and $77,000 a year for a typical four-member family—had a 48 percent greater chance of being uninsured with at least one insured parent at some point during the year compared with high-income children and had a 56 percent higher likelihood of being uninsured for more than six months.
The researchers also found that:
- Children whose parents had Medicaid or other public insurance were 54 percent less likely to be uninsured during the year than children with privately insured parents and 59 percent less likely to be uninsured for more than six months.
- Children living with an insured single parent had two times the odds of being uninsured at any point during the year as children living with two married people of whom at least one was insured and more than twice the odds of having a coverage gap lasting six months or more.
- Children living in the South and those in the West had 70 percent and 52 percent greater odds, respectively, of being uninsured at some point during a year with a parent covered all year, compared to children living in the Northeast.
"These findings add to our understanding of children's healthcare coverage gaps," said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, MD. She added that some of the low-income uninsured children likely qualify for public coverage, but their parents may not be aware of their eligibility.