Partial-Year Insurance Coverage and the Health Care Utilization of Children

This article examined the relationship between health care utilization and the status of children's health insurance over the course of a year. While considerable research addresses the effect of insurance status on children's health care, less is known about children who have health insurance at some times and not at others.

The authors conducted a fixed-effect regression analysis using data from the household component of the 1996–2003 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Their research was based on the records of 24,546 children with two calendar years of data.

Key Findings:

  • 14 percent of children had partial-year health insurance; 11 percent had no insurance for a full year; and 75 percent were insured for the full year. Children insured for less than a full year spent a mean of almost five months uninsured.
  • Children with longer spans of uninsurance were less likely to receive health care. The loss of health insurance coverage was associated with lower likelihood of having a usual health care provider.

Since over the course of a year, more children have lapses in their health insurance than have no insurance at all, it is important to understand the effect of partial-year insurance on children's health care utilization. These results indicate that children with partial-year insurance are less likely to utilize health care to the levels recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.