Has public health insurance for older children reduced disparities in access to care and health outcomes?
This paper investigates the effects of expanding public health insurance eligibility for older children. Using data from the National Health Interview Surveys from 1986 to 2005, we first show that although income continues to be an important predictor of children's health status, the importance of income for predicting health has fallen for children 9-17 in recent years. We then investigate the extent to which the dramatic expansions in public health insurance coverage for these children in the past decade are responsible for the decline in the importance of income. We find that while eligibility for public health insurance unambiguously improves current utilization of preventive care, it has little effect on current health status. However, we find some evidence that Medicaid eligibility in early childhood has positive effects on future health. This may indicate that adequate medical care early on puts children on a better health trajectory, resulting in better health as they grow.
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