Objective. To examine the impact of mandatory HMO enrollment for Medicaid-covered pregnant women on prenatal care use, smoking, Cesarean section (C-section) use, and birth weight.
Data Sources/Study Setting. Linked birth certificate and Medicaid enrollment data from July 1993 to June 1998 in 10 Ohio counties, 6 that implemented mandatory HMO enrollment, and 4 with low levels of voluntary enrollment (under 15 percent). Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) is analyzed separately; the other mandatory counties and the voluntary counties are grouped for analysis, due to small sample sizes.
Study Design. Women serve as their own controls, which helps to overcome the bias from unmeasured variables such as health beliefs and behavior. Changes in key outcomes between the first and second birth are compared between women who reside in mandatory HMO enrollment counties and those in voluntary enrollment counties. County of residence is the primary indicator of managed care status, since, in Ohio, women are allowed to “opt out” of HMO enrollment in mandatory counties in certain circumstances, leading to selection. As a secondary analysis, we compare women according to their HMO enrollment status at the first and second birth.
Data Collection/Extraction Methods. Linked birth certificate/enrollment data were used to identify 4,917 women with two deliveries covered by Medicaid, one prior to the implementation of mandatory HMO enrollment (mid-1996) and one following implementation. Data for individual births were linked over time using a scrambled maternal Medicaid identification number.
Principal Findings. The effects of HMO enrollment on prenatal care use and smoking were confined to Cuyahoga County, Ohio's largest county. In Cuyahoga, the implementation of mandatory enrollment was related to a significant deterioration in the timing of initiation of care, but an improvement in the number of prenatal visits. In that county also, women who smoked in their first pregnancy were less likely to smoke during the second pregnancy, compared to women in voluntary counties. Women residing in all the mandatory counties were less likely to have a repeat C-section. There were no effects on infant birth weight. The effects of women's own managed care status were inconsistent depending on the outcome examined; an interpretation of these results is hampered by selection issues. Changes over time in outcomes, both positive and negative, were more pronounced for African American women.
Conclusions. With careful implementation and attention to women's individual differences as in Ohio, outcomes for pregnant women may improve with Medicaid managed care implementation. Quality monitoring should continue as Medicaid managed care becomes more widespread. More research is needed to identify the types of health maintenance organization activities that lead to improved outcomes.