October 31, 2014

Researchers Look at the Children’s Health Insurance Program’s Impact

The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, a bipartisan advisory group of national leaders and experts in health care and public policy, recently issued a brief that examines the impact of the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  As the brief explains, “CHIP was established in 1997 to provide coverage for uninsured children who are low-income but above the cut-off for Medicaid eligibility.”  Combined, CHIP and Medicaid provide coverage to more than one out of three U.S. children.
Some of the brief’s notable findings include:
  • From 1997 (i.e., the program’s inception) to 2012, the percentage of uninsured children dropped from 14% to 7% and among those below 200% of the federal poverty level, the percentage dropped from 25% to 15%.
  • CHIP and Medicaid have reduced racial and ethnic disparities in children’s health care coverage.
  • Children with CHIP and Medicaid have comparable access to primary and preventive care as privately insured children, but privately insured children have greater access to specialist and dental care.
  • Some evidence suggests that CHIP and Medicaid have had positive impacts on various health outcomes, including reductions in child mortality and avoidable hospitalizations, while other studies have shown no such impact.
  • Children on Medicaid and CHIP visit the emergency department more frequently than other children, which researchers speculate may be due in part to barriers to accessing primary care providers, such as the lack of after-hours care.
  • “A large and consistent body of evidence shows that, following enrollment in Medicaid or CHIP, children are more likely to have a usual source of care, visits to physicians and dentists, and use of preventive care, and less likely to have unmet needs for physician services, prescription drugs, and dental, specialty, and hospital care.”
  • “In nine of ten studies cited in the Congressionally-mandated evaluation of CHIP, rates of unmet need were reduced by 50% or more.”
This 2013 OLR Report on Medicaid and HUSKY B, the state’s CHIP provides additional information.