An official website of the United States Government -

Access in Brief: Children’s Access to Health Care

Children with Medicaid and CHIP have access to care on par with private insurance in many cases, but which lags in others

Medicaid and CHIP offer children access to health care that is on par with private insurance in many cases but lags in others, according to new issue briefs from the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission.

The June 2016 analyses—based on data from the National Health Interview Survey, the principal source of information on the health of the civilian noninstitutionalized population of the United States, and the Household Component of the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey, large-scale survey data on specific health services that Americans use—show that children with Medicaid or CHIP coverage are as likely to have a usual source of medical care as privately insured children even when controlling for age, race and ethnicity, income level, and special health care needs. Children with Medicaid or CHIP, who are disproportionately affected by behavioral health disorders, are more likely to see a mental health professional or a general doctor for an emotional or behavioral problem as their privately insured counterparts. They also are prescribed psychotropic medication at a higher rate than privately insured children of the same household income level.

However, having Medicaid or CHIP coverage is less advantageous for children than private insurance when it comes to finding a doctor who accepts their health insurance, making an appointment, and obtaining specialist care. These children also visit the emergency room more often than children who are privately insured—their families are more likely to report that that their usual medical providers were not open or that they did not have another place to obtain care. And, although dental coverage is required for children on Medicaid and CHIP and the gap between their rate of dental visits and that of children with private medical insurance is narrowing, they still see the dentist less often than children with private coverage.

For every indicator, children with Medicaid or CHIP have better access to medical care than if they were uninsured.

Read the Access in Brief issue briefs, Children’s Difficulties in Obtaining Medical Care, Children’s Use of Behavioral Health Services, Use of Emergency Departments by Children, and Children’s Dental Services,  at, and follow MACPAC @macpacgov on Twitter.