OBJECTIVE. Our goal was to examine the impact of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program nationally on children’s access and use of health care.

OBJECTIVE. Our data source was the National Health Interview Survey, using 1997 as a baseline, which predates the implementation of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, and 2003 as the end point of the analysis. We analyzed 25 734 children aged 0 to 18 years (1997 and 2003 combined) to examine changes in health insurance coverage rates, health care access, and utilization for children in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program target population, defined here as those living in families with incomes between 100% and 199% of the federal poverty level.

RESULTS. Children in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program target income group showed the largest reduction in rates of uninsurance among 3 income groups (<100%, 100%–199%, and ≥200% of the federal poverty level) between 1997 and 2003 (15.1%–8.7%). Significant reductions occurred in the proportion of children without a usual source of care in the target income group (9.4%–7.3%) and in the proportion of children without a provider visit in the past year (10.8%–9.8%). Other measures (unmet needs, delayed care, volume of provider visits, receipt of well-child care, and dental care) showed no significant changes over this time period. A separate multivariate analysis restricted to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program target population in 2003 showed that children with continuous public coverage had significantly better access and utilization on all measures studied when compared with uninsured children and performed as well or better than children with continuous private coverage.

CONCLUSIONS. Implementation of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program is associated with substantial gains in public coverage for children in the target income group. Although some of these gains were offset by losses in private coverage, our findings demonstrate that public health insurance provides significant benefits in terms of access and utilization for children living in the target income group.

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