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Keywords:

  • Medicaid;
  • managed care;
  • primary care case management;
  • utilization;
  • access

Objective. Many states expanded their Medicaid managed care programs during the 1990s, causing concern about impacts on health care for affected populations. We investigate the relationship between Medicaid managed care enrollment and health care for children.

Data Sources and Measures. Repeated cross-sections of Medicaid-covered children under 18 years of age from the 1996/1997 and 1998/1999 Community Tracking Study Household Surveys (n=2,602) matched to state-year CMS Medicaid managed care enrollment data. For each individual, we constructed measures of health care utilization (provider and emergency department visits, hospitalizations, surgeries); health care access (usual source of care, unmet medical needs, put-off needed care); and satisfaction (satisfaction overall, with doctor choice, and with last visit).

Study Design. Regression analysis of the relationship between within-state changes in Medicaid managed care enrollment rates and changes in mean utilization, access, and satisfaction measures for children covered by Medicaid, controlling for a range of potentially confounding factors.

Principal Findings. Increases in Medicaid health maintenance organization (HMO) enrollment are associated with less emergency room use, more outpatient visits, fewer hospitalizations, higher rates of reporting having put off care, and lower satisfaction with the most recent visit. Medicaid primary care case management (PCCM) plans are associated with increases in outpatient visits, but also with higher rates of reporting unmet medical needs, putting off care, and having no usual source of care.

Conclusions. Both Medicaid HMO and PCCM plans can have important impacts on health care utilization, access, and satisfaction. Some impacts may be positive (e.g., less ED use and more outpatient provider use), although concern about increasing challenges in access to care and satisfaction is also warranted.