Recent evidence suggests that children in working poor families lack health resources, placing them at risk for inadequate access to care.
To examine financial and nonfinancial access and utilization of health services among children in working poor families, and to compare these data with those of children from both nonworking poor and moderate to affluent families.
A cross-sectional study of 13 785 children younger than 18 years.
Subjects from the 1997 National Health Interview Survey.
Main Outcome Measures
Prevalence and continuity of health insurance coverage, of delayed or missed care, and of unmet care needs; presence and type of usual source of care; and the amount of visits to physicians, emergency departments, and hospitals.
Compared with children of nonworking poor parents and moderate to affluent children, more working poor children were uninsured (22% vs 12% and 5%, respectively; P<.01) and experienced disruptions in insurance coverage (P<.01). After adjusting for other covariates, disparities in insurance coverage and continuity persisted, as did delays in care and unmet care needs; these delays were far higher for the working poor. Although these children had access to a regular source of care and had utilization rates comparable with those of other poor children, they differed markedly from moderate to affluent children on structural access and utilization (adjusted odds ratios, 1.5-3.4).
Children in working poor families experience far more barriers to care than other children. Health insurance expansions through the Children's Health Insurance Program and Medicaid, which reduce financial and nonfinancial barriers to care, may help correct these disparities.