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Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Access to Care Among Children: How Does Medicaid do in Closing the Gaps?

While Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) have become increasingly important sources of health coverage for low-income children in all racial and ethnic groups, the program plays an especially large role for children of color, who are more likely than white children to be low-income. In 2007, Medicaid and CHIP covered nearly one in five white children, but roughly two in five African American and Hispanic children.

As policymakers engaged in health reform consider the merits of public and private approaches to expanding coverage, this report provides an assessment of Medicaid’s relative impact on racial and ethnic disparities in access. The analysis compared health care access for white, African American and Hispanic children who were privately insured, uninsured, or enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP.

Key findings include:

  • Racial and ethnic disparities in access to care were no more likely among children enrolled in Medicaid than among privately insured children.
  • Insurance coverage – both private and Medicaid – often improved access for children in each racial and ethnic group, but generally did not significantly narrow racial and ethnic disparities in their access to health care.

This report analyzes data for more than 15,000 children from the 2003 and 2004 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a nationally representative household survey conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Report (.pdf)