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Public health insurance offers insured infants better, less costly care than private plans
Date:12/7/2011

kely that the impact of national reforms to bring more children under public health insurance will substantially improve the health of infants who are in the worst health to begin with," Roy says. "It's likely to also help infants who aren't low-income."

Roy presented her study, "How Well Does the U.S. Government Provide Health Insurance?" at the 2011 Western Economic Association International Conference, San Diego. Roy is a Ph.D. student and an adjunct professor in SMU's Department of Economics.

Study weighted to account for less healthy infants covered under public health insurance

A large body of previous research has established that insured infants are healthier than uninsured infants. Roy's study appears to be the first of its kind to look only at insured infants to determine which kind of insurance has the most impact on infant health private or public.

Roy found:

  • Infants covered by public insurance are mostly from disadvantaged backgrounds. Those under Medicaid and its sister program CHIP come mostly from lower-income families. Their parents usually black and Hispanic are more likely to be unmarried, younger and less educated. Economists refer to this statistical phenomenon when a group consists primarily of people with specific characteristics as strong positive or negative selection. In the case of public health insurance, strong negative selection is at work because it draws people who are poor and disadvantaged.

  • Infants on public health insurance are slightly less healthy than infants on private insurance. On average they had a lower five-minute Apgar score and shorter gestation age compared to privately insured infants. They were less likely to have a normal birth weight and normal Apgar score range, and were less likely to be born near term.

  • Infants covered by private health insurance are mostly from white or Asian families and are generally more advantaged. The
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Contact: Margaret Allen
mallen@smu.edu
214-768-7664
Southern Methodist University
Source:Eurekalert

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