The health and healthcare impact of providing insurance coverage to uninsured children: A prospective observational study

Glenn Flores, Hua Lin, Candice Walker, Michael Lee, Janet M. Currie, Rick Allgeyer, Alberto Portillo, Monica Henry, Marco Fierro, Kenneth Massey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Background: Of the 4.8 million uninsured children in America, 62-72% are eligible for but not enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP. Not enough is known, however, about the impact of health insurance on outcomes and costs for previously uninsured children, which has never been examined prospectively. Methods: This prospective observational study of uninsured Medicaid/CHIP-eligible minority children compared children obtaining coverage vs. those remaining uninsured. Subjects were recruited at 97 community sites, and 11 outcomes monitored monthly for 1 year. Results: In this sample of 237 children, those obtaining coverage were significantly (P < .05) less likely than the uninsured to have suboptimal health (27% vs. 46%); no PCP (7% vs. 40%); experienced never/sometimes getting immediate care from the PCP (7% vs. 40%); no usual source of preventive (1% vs. 20%) or sick (3% vs. 12%) care; and unmet medical (13% vs. 48%), preventive (6% vs. 50%), and dental (18% vs. 62%) care needs. The uninsured had higher out-of-pocket doctor-visit costs (mean = $70 vs. $29), and proportions of parents not recommending the child’s healthcare provider to friends (24% vs. 8%) and reporting the child’s health caused family financial problems (29% vs. 5%), and lower well-child-care-visit quality ratings. In bivariate analyses, older age, birth outside of the US, and lacking health insurance for >6 months at baseline were associated with remaining uninsured for the entire year. In multivariable analysis, children who had been uninsured for >6 months at baseline (odds ratio [OR], 3.8; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.4-10.3) and African-American children (OR, 2.8; 95% CI, 1.1-7.3) had significantly higher odds of remaining uninsured for the entire year. Insurance saved $2886/insured child/year, with mean healthcare costs = $5155/uninsured vs. $2269/insured child (P = .04). Conclusions: Providing health insurance to Medicaid/CHIP-eligible uninsured children improves health, healthcare access and quality, and parental satisfaction; reduces unmet needs and out-of-pocket costs; and saves $2886/insured child/year. African-American children and those who have been uninsured for >6 months are at greatest risk for remaining uninsured. Extrapolation of the savings realized by insuring uninsured, Medicaid/CHIP-eligible children suggests that America potentially could save $8.7-$10.1 billion annually by providing health insurance to all Medicaid/CHIP-eligible uninsured children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number553
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 23 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


  • Adolescent
  • African Americans
  • Children
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program
  • Health policy
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Insurance
  • Medicaid
  • Medically uninsured
  • Poverty


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