Children's Usual Source of Care

MEPS Statistical Brief, No. 501

Children's Usual Source of Care: Insurance, Income, and Racial/Ethnic Disparities, a statistical brief from the Household Component of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS-HC), provides estimates of trends in the number of children ages 0–17 who lack a usual source of care in the United States. Having a usual source of care is an important indicator of health care access for children, yet many children lack this key resource. Without a usual source of care, children may not receive the appropriate level of recommended medical care.

In 2014, approximately 7.9 percent of U.S. children younger than 18 years were reported as not having a usual source of care. In 2014, uninsured children were more than five times (31.4 percent) as likely to lack a usual source of medical care as children with private insurance (6.2 percent). Moreover, uninsured children were nearly four times as likely as children with any public coverage (8.2 percent) not to have a usual source of care. Uninsured children were substantially more likely to lack a usual source of care each year between 2004 and 2014.

With respect to family income, children from higher income families were less likely (4.3 percent) than children from any other income group to lack a usual source of medical care in 2014. A greater share of children from poor (8.9 percent) or near poor families (9.8 percent), as well as children from low (12.0 percent) or middle (7.9 percent) income families did not have a usual source of medical care in 2014. In 2014, children in low-income families were less likely than children in middle-income and high-income families to have a usual source of care. The share of children without a usual source of care was higher in middle income (7.9 percent) compared to high income (4.3 percent) families in 2014.

Racial/ethnic differences in the percentage of children reporting no usual source of care were found throughout 2004–2014. In 2014, Hispanic (10.4 percent), and African-American (10.3 percent) children were more likely to lack a usual source of care compared to white children (5.9 percent). The share of Hispanic children without a usual source of care declined by four percentage points between 2004 and 2014. Even with this decline, Hispanic children remained more likely to lack a usual source of care in 2014, compared to non-Hispanic whites.

Highlights of Children's Usual Source of Care: Insurance, Income, and Racial/Ethnic Disparities:

  • A usual source of medical care was unavailable to 5.8 million children (7.9 percent of children ages 0-17) in 2014.
  • Children who were uninsured were more likely to have no usual source of care in each year between 2004 and 2014.
  • Children living in poor families were more likely to lack a usual source of care compared to children living in high-income families in both 2004 and 2014.
  • Children from high-income families were less likely than children in any other income group to lack a usual source of care in 2014.
  • The percentage of Hispanic children without a usual source of care declined by 4 percentage points between 2004 and 2014.

Go to Children's Usual Source of Care: Insurance, Income, and Racial/Ethnic Disparities.

Page last reviewed March 2017
Page originally created October 2015
Internet Citation: Children's Usual Source of Care. Content last reviewed March 2017. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/meps.html