Marriage and Health Care Coverage Among Families with Children. Coverage Rates Among Families with Children

08/01/2008

Overall rates of health care coverage are similar for married-parent and single-parent families.

In 2003, 82 percent of married-parent families (22.1 million) and 80 percent of single-parent families (7.0 million) had health care coverage for all family members for at least part of the year (Table 1). An additional 14 percent of married-parent families (3.7 million) and 16 percent of single-parent families (1.4 million) had coverage for some but not all family members. Examples of partially covered families include those in which the children were covered by the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) but the parents lacked coverage or families in which a parent had employment-based health care coverage but the other family members lacked coverage.

Table 1
Health Care Coverage Among Families with Children,
by Marital Status and Coverage Type, 2003
Marital Status and Coverage Type Percentage of Families Covered Number of Families Covered
(in millions)
Fully Covered
Married-parent families 82 22.1
Single-parent families 80 7.0
Partially Covered
Married-parent families 14 3.7
Single-parent families 16 1.4
Source: Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) to the Current Population Survey (CPS), 2004.
Notes: Fully covered means that everyone in the family had coverage for at least part of the year. Partially covered means that only some family members were covered.

Although married-parent and single-parent families have similar overall rates of health care coverage, they depend on different sources of coverage.

In 2003, the two most common sources of health care coverage for families with children were employment-based health care plans and public programs such as SCHIP or Medicaid (Figure 1). Coverage rates were lower for plans purchased directly from private health insurance companies ("direct-purchased") and for "mixed" coverage plans involving a combination of employment-based, public, and direct-purchased coverage. The percentage of families fully covered by employment-based plans was higher for married-parent families (69 percent) than for single-parent families (38 percent). However, rates of health care coverage through public programs were higher for single-parent families (40 percent versus 11 percent). Coverage rates for direct-purchased and mixed coverage types were similar by marital status. These estimates exclude partially covered families in which some but not all family members had health care coverage. However, this exclusion does not change the overall pattern of results.

Figure 1
Source of Full Health Care Coverage Among Families with Children, by Marital Status, 2003.

Figure 1. Source of Full Health Care Coverage Among Families with Children, by Marital Status, 2003. See text for discussion of chart.

Source: Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC)
to the Current Population Survey (CPS), 2004.
Notes: Limited to families with health care coverage for all family members.
Rates for source of coverage do not sum to overall coverage rates (Table 1)
because some families have more than one coverage source.

The difference in rates of employment-based and public health care coverage between married-parent and single-parent families may be due in part to differences in income levels, employment patterns, and other demographic characteristics. For example, in 2003, the median income for the families included in this analysis was more than three times higher for married-parent families ($64,500) than for single-parent families ($20,827). Higher family income indicates both an increased chance for employment-based coverage and a reduced chance for means-tested public health care coverage. By contrast, single-parent families had a greater chance of being unemployed or working in service occupations, which often do not offer health benefits.

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