Background and objectives: Thirty million children are currently covered by public insurance; however, the future funding and structure of public insurance are uncertain. Our objective was to determine the number, estimated costs, and demographic characteristics of hospitalizations that would become ineligible for public insurance reimbursement under 3 federal poverty level (FPL) eligibility scenarios.
Methods: In this retrospective cohort study using the 2014 State Inpatient Databases, we included all pediatric (age <18) hospitalizations in 14 states from January 1, 2014, to December 31, 2014, with public insurance as the primary payer. We linked each patient's zip code to the American Community Survey to determine the likelihood of the patient being below 3 different public insurance income eligibility thresholds (300%, 200%, and 100% of the FPL). Multiple simulations were used to describe newly ineligible hospitalizations under each threshold.
Results: In 775 460 publicly reimbursed hospitalizations in 14 states, reductions in eligibility limits to 300%, 200%, or 100% of the FPL would have resulted in large numbers of newly ineligible hospitalizations (∼155 000 [20% of hospitalizations] for 300%, 440 000 [57%] for 200%, and 650 000 [84%] for 100% of the FPL), equaling $1.2, $3.1, and $4.4 billion of estimated child hospitalization costs, respectively. Patient demographics differed only slightly under each eligibility threshold.
Conclusions: Reducing public insurance eligibility limits would have resulted in numerous pediatric hospitalizations not covered by public insurance, shifting costs to families, other insurers, or hospitals. Without adequately subsidized commercial insurance, this reflects a potentially substantial economic hardship for families and hospitals serving them.
Adolescent; Child; Child, Preschool; Cohort Studies; Databases, Factual; Female; Hospitalization; Humans; Income; Infant; Infant, Newborn; Insurance Coverage; Insurance, Health; Male; Poverty; Retrospective Studies; United States
Bettenhausen, J. L., Hall, M., Colvin, J. D., Puls, H. T., Chung, P. J. The Effect of Lowering Public Insurance Income Limits on Hospitalizations for Low-Income Children. Pediatrics 142, (2018).