OBJECTIVES: We investigated trends in national childhood mortality, racial disparities in child mortality, and the effect of Medicaid and State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) eligibility expansions on child mortality. METHODS: We analyzed child mortality by state, race, and age using the National Center for Health Statistics' multiple cause of death files over 20 years, from 1985 to 2004. RESULTS: Child mortality continued to decline in the United States, but racial disparities in mortality remained. Declines in child mortality (ages 1-17 years) were substantial for both natural (disease-related) and external (injuries, homicide, and suicide) causes for children of all races/ethnicities, although Black-White mortality ratios remained unchanged during the study period. Expanded Medicaid and SCHIP eligibility was significantly related to the decline in external-cause mortality; the relationship between natural-cause mortality and Medicaid or SCHIP eligibility remains unclear. Eligibility expansions did not affect relative racial disparities in child mortality. CONCLUSIONS: Although the study provides some evidence that public insurance expansions reduce child mortality, future research is needed on the effect of new health insurance on child health and on factors causing relative racial disparities
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