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Medical Care:
doi: 10.1097/MLR.0b013e3182159e4d
Original Articles

Comparing Types of Health Insurance for Children: A Public Option versus a Private Option

DeVoe, Jennifer E. MD, DPhil*; Tillotson, Carrie J. MPH*; Wallace, Lorraine S. PhD; Selph, Shelley MD; Graham, Alan MD§; Angier, Heather MPH*

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Abstract

Background: Many states have expanded public health insurance programs for children, and further expansions were proposed in recent national reform initiatives; yet the expansion of public insurance plans and the inclusion of a public option in state insurance exchange programs sparked controversies and raised new questions with regard to the quality and adequacy of various insurance types.

Objectives: We aimed to examine the comparative effectiveness of public versus private coverage on parental-reported children's access to health care in low-income and middle-income families.

Methods/Participants/Measures: We conducted secondary data analyses of the nationally representative Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, pooling years 2002 to 2006. We assessed univariate and multivariate associations between child's full-year insurance type and parental-reported unmet health care and preventive counseling needs among children in low-income (n=28,338) and middle-income families (n=13,160).

Results: Among children in families earning <200% of the federal poverty level, those with public insurance were significantly less likely to have no usual source of care compared with privately insured children (adjusted relative risk, 0.79; 95% confidence interval, 0.63-0.99). This was the only significant difference in 50 logistic regression models comparing unmet health care and preventive counseling needs among low-income and middle-income children with public versus private coverage.

Conclusions: The striking similarities in reported rates of unmet needs among children with public versus private coverage in both low-income and middle-income groups suggest that a public children's insurance option may be equivalent to a private option in guaranteeing access to necessary health care services for all children.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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