Children’s public health insurance and maternal absenteeism
There are currently two public health insurance options available to United States children, Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The programs are similar in that they both target improvements in children’s health through increased access to medical care. Program participation, however, may impact the labor market decisions of participant families. This study employs data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) 2006 Full Year Consolidated Data File to identify how participation in the two programs affects a mother’s work performance measured by absenteeism. The relationship between public health insurance enrollment and a mother’s work attendance is complex as it appears to arise from offsetting factors. On the one hand, access to care may increase utilization of preventative care (in the case of well child visits) and early action care (doctor visits for mild illnesses), leading to an increased rate of absenteeism. On the other hand, it is this type of care that may reduce the total number of days that a mother needs to be absent from work to care for her child. Empirically we find that program enrollment increases the probability that a mother misses work but reduces the amount of time that she is away from her job.