Background. The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) has been operating for >5 years. Policy makers are interested in the characteristics of children who have enrolled and changes in the health care needs of enrolled children as programs mature. New York State’s SCHIP evolved from a similar statewide health insurance program that was developed in 1991 (Child Health Plus [CHPlus]). Understanding how current SCHIP enrollees differ from early CHPlus enrollees together with how program features changed during the period may shed light on how best to serve the evolving SCHIP population.

Objective. To 1) describe changes in the characteristics of children enrolled in 1994 CHPlus and 2001 SCHIP; 2) determine if changes in the near-poor, age-eligible population during the time period could account for the evolution of enrollment; and 3) describe changes in the program during the period that could be responsible for the enrollment changes.

Setting. New York State, stratified into 4 regions: New York City, New York City environs, upstate urban counties, and upstate rural counties.

Design. Retrospective telephone interviews of parents of 2 cohorts of CHPlus enrollees: 1) children who enrolled in CHPlus in 1993 to 1994 and 2) children who enrolled in New York’s SCHIP in 2000 to 2001. The Current Population Survey (CPS) 1992 to 1994 and 1999 to 2001 were used to identify secular trends that could explain differences in the CHPlus and SCHIP enrollees.

Program Characteristics. 1994 CHPlus and 2001 SCHIP were similar in design, both limiting eligibility by age, family income, and insurance status. SCHIP 2001 included 1) expansion of eligibility to adolescents 13 to 19 years old; 2) expansion of benefits to include hospitalizations, mental health, and dental benefits; 3) changes in premium contributions; 4) more participating insurance plans, limited to managed care; 5) expansions in marketing and outreach; and 6) a combined enrollment application for SCHIP and several low-income programs including Medicaid.

Sample. Cohort 1 included 2126 new CHPlus enrollees 0 to 13 years old who were enrolled for at least 9 months, stratified by geographic region. Cohort 2 included 1100 new SCHIP enrollees 0 to 13 years old who were enrolled for at least 9 months, stratified by geographic region, age, race, and ethnicity. Results were weighted to be representative of statewide CHPlus or SCHIP new enrollees who met the sampling criteria. Samples of age- and income-eligible children from New York State were drawn from the CPS and pooled and reweighted (1992–1994 and 1999–2001) to generate a comparison group of children targeted by CHPlus and SCHIP.

Measures. Sociodemographic characteristics, race and ethnicity (white non-Hispanic, black non-Hispanic, and Hispanic), prior health insurance, health care access, and first source of information about the program.

Analyses. Weighted bivariate analyses (comparisons of means and rates) adjusted for the complex sampling design to compare measures between the 2 program cohorts and between the 2 CPS samples. We tested for equivalence by using χ2 statistics.

Results. As the program evolved from CHPlus to SCHIP, relatively more black and Hispanic children enrolled (9% to 30% black from 1994 to 2001, and 16% to 48% Hispanic), more New York City residents (46% to 69% from 1994 to 2001), more children with parents who had less than a high school education (10% to 25%), more children from lower income families (59% to 75% below 150% of the federal poverty level), and more children from families with parents not working (7% to 20%) enrolled. These socioeconomic and demographic changes were not reflected in the underlying age- and income-eligible population. A greater proportion of 2001 enrollees were uninsured for some time immediately before enrollment (57% to 76% had an uninsured gap), were insured by Medicaid during the year before enrollment (23% to 48%), and lacked a USC (5% to 14%). Although “word of mouth” was the most common means by which families heard about both programs, a greater proportion of 2001 enrollees learned about SCHIP from marketing or outreach sources.

Conclusion. As New York programs for the uninsured evolved, more children from minority groups, with lower family incomes and education, and having less baseline access to health care were enrolled. Although changes in the underlying population were relatively small, progressively increased marketing and outreach, particularly in New York City, the introduction of a single application form for SCHIP and Medicaid, and expansions in the benefit package may have accounted, in part, for the large change in the characteristics of enrollees.

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