Analysis of Children's Health Insurance Patterns: Findings from the SIPP. How Does a Child's Insurance Coverage Compare to That of His or Her Parents?

05/12/1999

Children's coverage tends to mirror that of their parents, but the exceptions to this rule pose interesting questions for policymakers and analysts. About one-fifth of uninsured children appear to have at least one insured parent--a situation that merits further research to establish if and why it is true. Between 7 and 8 percent of uninsured children, for example, have a parent who reports being covered by Medicaid--a fraction that appears much too high and suggests that many of these children may in fact be covered by Medicaid, contributing to the aforementioned Medicaid undercount . At the same time, between 10 and 13 percent of the children who were reported to have been covered by Medicaid in the study period appeared to have an uninsured parent. This finding is very plausible in light of the opportunity for many children to be enrolled in Medicaid under child-only provisions. In fact, we would very likely find an even greater proportion of Medicaid children with uninsured parents if the Medicaid participation rates of children eligible under the various child-only provisions were as high as they are in the eligibility categories with the greatest participation. This situation raises the policy question--to which we will return--of whether the Medicaid enrollment of children could be increased by extending eligibility to parents as well.

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