Health Insurance Supply of Medical Services

How does having health insurance affect the probability children recieve needed care

A recent Robert Wood Johnson Report (see also press release) finds that uninsured children receive less needed medical care than individuals with health insurance.  The report finds that 91% of children who are insured have had a physician visit in the last year compared to only 69% of uninsured children.  Seventy seven percent of children with insurance had a well-child visit in the last year compared to 45% of uninsured children.

Does this mean that having health insurance increases the quantity of health care children receive?  Yes.  Holding health insurance decreases the marginal cost of a physician visit and this increases the probability a child will visit the doctor.

Do these statistics imply that giving health insurance to the uninsured will increase well-child visits to rates of insured children?  Likely no.  Children who have insurance are likely to be different than those without health insurance.  Those with private insurance are likely more educated, richer, and more likely to have an English-speaking household than those without health insurance.  These individuals have likely have higher demand for medical care than the average person.  Thus, giving all uninsured children insurance will likely increase well-child visit rates, but will not increase them to the level of the currently insured.  Conversely, if all insured people lost their insurance, well child visit rates would still be above individuals who are currently uninsured.

While health insurance coverage likely contributes to physician visit rates, it is not the only factor which determines a child’s frequency of physician visits.