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Keywords:

  • SCHIP;
  • dental care;
  • health insurance;
  • low-income children

Objective. To provide national estimates of implementation effects of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) on dental care access and use for low-income children.

Data Source. The 1997–2002 National Health Interview Survey.

Study Design. The study design is based on variation in the timing of SCHIP implementation across states and among children observed before and after implementation. Two analyses were conducted. The first estimated the total effect of SCHIP implementation on unmet need for dental care due to cost in the past year and dental services use for low-income children (family income below state SCHIP eligibility thresholds) using county and time fixed effects models. The second analysis estimated differences in dental care access and use among low-income children with SCHIP or Medicaid coverage and their uninsured counterparts, using instrumental variables methods to control for selection bias. Both analyses controlled for child and family characteristics.

Principal Findings. When SCHIP had been implemented for more than 1 year, the probability of unmet dental care needs for low-income children was lowered by 4 percentage points. Compared with their uninsured counterparts, those who had SCHIP or Medicaid coverage were less likely to report unmet dental need by 8 percentage points (standard error: 2.3), and more likely to have visited a dentist within 6 or 12 months by 17 (standard error: 3.7) and 23 (standard error: 3.6) percentage points, respectively. SCHIP program type had no differential effects.

Conclusions. Consistent results from two analytical approaches provide evidence that SCHIP implementation significantly reduced financial barriers for dental care for low-income children in the U.S. Low-income children enrolled in SCHIP or Medicaid had substantially increased use of dental care than the uninsured.