In the fierce national debate over a new federal law that requires all Americans to have health insurance, it's widely assumed that private health insurance can do a better job than the public insurance funded by the U.S. government.
But a first-of-its-kind analysis of newly available government data found just the opposite when it comes to infants covered by insurance.
Among the insured, infants in low-income families are better off under the nation's government-funded public health insurance than infants covered by private insurance, says economist and study author Manan Roy, Southern Methodist University, Dallas. The finding emerged from an analysis that was weighted for the fact that less healthy infants are drawn into public health insurance from birth by its low cost.
The finding is surprising, says Roy, because the popular belief is that private health insurance always provides better coverage. Roy's analysis, however, found public health insurance is a better option and not only for low-income infants.
"Public health insurance gets a lot of bad press," says Roy. "But for infants who are covered by health insurance, the government-funded insurance appears to be more efficient than private health insurance and can actually provide better care at a lower cost."
"Private health insurance plans vary widely," Roy says. "Many don't include basic services. So infants on more affordable plans may not be covered for immunizations, prescription drugs, for vision or dental care, or even basic preventive care."
The U.S. doesn't have a system of universal health insurance. But the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010, requires all Americans to have health insurance. The act also expands government-paid free or low-cost Medicaid insurance to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.
"Given the study's surprising outcome, it's li
|Contact: Margaret Allen|
Southern Methodist University