Purpose To understand national changes in the quality of primary care reported by families of children and to estimate the potential benefits of recent health insurance expansions to children’s receipt of primary care.
Methods A comparison of three iterations of the National Survey of Children’s Health from 2003 to 2012 for children ages 0–18 years on measures of primary care experience (access, continuity, comprehensiveness and coordination). Trend analyses are stratified by insurance status and socio-demographics in order to assess the potential contribution of expanded coverage through health care reform to primary care experiences.
Results The results show very little change overall in primary care experiences for children nationally. Some significant gains were made in access and continuity for children considered more vulnerable (i.e., from families with lower-incomes and lower educational attainment), but were mostly explained by changes in insurance coverage over time.
Conclusion Insurance in the US remains a major factor in improving the primary care experience of children. The recent health care reforms have the potential to improve children’s primary care access and continuity, but even with the intended goal of near universal insurance coverage for children, the US is not likely to reach the levels of paediatric primary care experience reported among studies in major European economies.