The State Child Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is the largest public investment in child health care in 30 years, targeting 11 million uninsured children, yet little is known about the impact of health insurance on uninsured children. In 1991, New York State implemented Child Health Plus (CHPlus), a health insurance program that became a model for SCHIP.
To examine changes in access to care, utilization of services, and quality of care among children enrolled in CHPlus.
A pre–post design was used to evaluate the health care experiences of children in the year before enrollment in CHPlus and during the year after CHPlus enrollment.
New York State, stratified into 4 regions: New York City, urban counties around New York City, upstate urban counties, and upstate rural counties.
A total of 2126 children (0–12.99 years of age) who enrolled in CHPlus in 1992–1993.
Parents were interviewed by telephone, and primary care medical charts were reviewed for 694 children (0–3.99 years of age).
Access, utilization, and quality of care measures for each child were compared for the year before and the year after CHPlus enrollment, controlling for age, geographic region, previous insurance coverage, and CHPlus plan type (indemnity or managed care).
Enrollment in CHPlus was associated with fewer children lacking a medical home (5% before CHPlus vs 1% during CHPlus), with the greatest change occurring in New York City (11% vs 1%), where access before CHPlus was lowest. CHPlus was also associated with increased primary care visits: by 25% for preventive visits, by 52% for acute visits, and by 42% for total visits. The number of specialists seen during CHPlus was more than twice as high than before CHPlus. CHPlus was not associated with changes in emergency department utilization, although hospitalizations, which were not covered by CHPlus, were 36% lower during CHPlus coverage. Use of public health departments for immunizations declined by 64%, with more immunizations delivered in the medical home during CHPlus coverage. One third of parents reported improved quality of health care for their child as a result of CHPlus, and virtually none noted worse quality of care.
This statewide health insurance program for low-income children was associated with improved access, utilization, and quality of care, suggesting that SCHIP has the potential to improve health care for low-income American children.