Children from low-income families are less likely to receive recommended health care services compared to their peers from higher-income families and children with insured parents. However, previous studies have not demonstrated a causal relationship. This study will offer evidence on whether a causal connection exists between parental and child health behaviors, and will be one of the first to examine whether parental dental visits can increase recommended dental care among low-income youth. Lipton will study state-level variation in Medicaid coverage of adult dental services to test three hypotheses focused on youth ages 0–17 residing with at least one parent enrolled in Medicaid. She hypothesizes that adult dental coverage under Medicaid may increase the likelihood that a child has a dental visit and reduce the likelihood of adverse child outcomes related to oral health (e.g., emergency room visits and missed school days). Lipton also hypothesizes that the effects of Medicaid adult dental coverage will vary depending on whether the child’s mother or father gains coverage. Using data from the National Health Interview Survey and Medicaid adult dental coverage policy data, Lipton will examine the relationship between policy-induced increases in adult dental visits and child outcomes. Findings from this study may help establish a direct connection between parent and child health behaviors, potentially informing policies that affect low-income families and offering a mechanism for reducing the unmet health care needs of insured children.
Can policy-induced changes in parents’ dental health behaviors reduce disparities in the dental health of their children?