Impact of Medicaid Expansion on Reported Incidents of Child Neglect and Physical Abuse

Published:September 21, 2021DOI:


      The U.S. Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion, which allowed states to expand Medicaid coverage to low-income adults beginning in 2014, has reduced the risk factors for child neglect and physical abuse, including parental financial insecurity, substance use, and untreated mental illness. This study examines the associations between Medicaid expansion and the rates of overall, first-time, and repeat reports of child neglect and physical abuse incidents per 100,000 children aged 0–5, 6–12, and 13–17 years.


      The 2008–2018 National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System was analyzed using an extension of the difference-in-differences approach that accounts for staggered policy implementation across time. Owing to evidence of nonparallel preperiod trends in the 6 states that expanded Medicaid from 2015 to 2017, the main analyses included 20 states that newly expanded Medicaid in 2014 and 18 states that did not expand Medicaid from 2008 to 2018. Analyses were conducted in 2020–2021.


      Medicaid expansion states were associated with reductions of 13.4% (95% CI= −24.2, −9.6), 14.8% (95% CI= −26.4, −1.4), and 16.0% (−27.6, −2.6) in the average rate of child neglect reports per 100,000 children aged 0–5, 6–12, and 13–17 years, per state-year, relative to control states. Expansion was associated with a 17.3% (95% CI= −28.9, −3.8) reduction in the rate of first-time neglect reports among children aged 0–5 years and with 16.6% (95% CI= −29.3, −1.6) and 18.7% (95% CI= −32.5, −2.1) reductions in the rates of repeat neglect reports among children aged 6–12 and 13–17 years, respectively. There were no statistically significant associations between Medicaid expansion and the rates of physical abuse among children in any age group.


      Insurance expansions for low-income adults may reduce child neglect.
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