The Impact of Medical Financial Hardship on Children’s Health

Sarathy, B., Morris, H., Tumin, D., Buckman, C.

Objective. To determine whether living in a family with medical financial hardship decreases children’s access to health care. Methods. We identified children aged 4 to 17 years from the 2013 to 2018 National Health Interview Surveys. Medical financial hardship was defined as living in a family where one or more family members had problems paying medical bills in the past 12 months. Results. Of 53 483 children in the analysis, 19% were exposed to medical financial hardship. This was adversely associated with children’s health status and health care use, especially greater odds of delaying care (odds ratio [OR] = 5.28; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 4.51-6.19) and having unmet health care needs (OR = 4.43; 95% CI = 4.00-4.91). Conclusions. One fifth of children live in families experiencing medical financial hardship, and this exposure is adversely correlated with child health outcomes even controlling for established measures of socioeconomic status, such as family income, health insurance coverage, and need-based program participation.

Health Condition(s): General/non-specific
Year Published: 2020
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