Adolescents' knowledge of their health insurance coverage

Sheryl A. Ryan, Susan G. Millstein, Myungsa Kang, Margaret E. Ensminger, Barbara Starfield, Charles E. Irwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Purpose: To determine the accuracy of adolescents' self-report of health insurance coverage, using parents' report as a comparison standard. Methods: Two separate samples of urban, school-based adolescents and their parents completed self-administered questionnaires about type of health insurance coverage. Sample 1 included 123 and Sample 2 included 93 adolescent-parent pairs. Percent agreement and the kappa statistic were determined for each of the sample groups, and for males versus females and older (>14 years) versus younger (≤14 years) adolescents. Results: In Sample 1, 33% of adolescent respondents responded 'don't know' to the question about type of insurance coverage, and 4% left the question blank; in Sample 2, 3% answered 'don't know,' with none leaving the question blank. For Sample 1, we found a 57% rate of agreement of adolescents with their parents, and a corresponding kappa of .21. Females and older subjects demonstrated greater accuracy, with kappa's all in the range .13-.29. In Sample 2, 73% of subjects agreed with parents' report, with a kappa of .48. Females and older subjects also demonstrated greater accuracy, with the highest kappa of .59 demonstrated by older females. Excluding those responding with 'don't know,' we found overall percent agreement with parents of 87% in Sample 1 and 73% in Sample 2; the corresponding kappas were .47 and .51. Females demonstrated higher agreement with parents in both samples. The results stratifying by age were inconsistent. In Sample 1, privately insured subjects were more accurate reporters than those either on medical assistance or uninsured. In Sample 2, no differences were seen by type of insurance. Conclusions: Many adolescents do not know their health insurance coverage status. However, for those who did claim to know, acceptable rates of accuracy using both percent agreement and the kappa statistic were demonstrated. Further research is needed to determine how information about insurance is communicated to adolescents and how this knowledge affects access to and use of health services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-299
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Accuracy
  • Adolescents
  • Health insurance
  • Self-report
  • Validity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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