Objective. To evaluate the health outcomes of managed care Medicaid children with non-emergent conditions who were not authorized to be seen in the Pediatric Emergency Department (PED) by their primary care provider.
Design. Consecutive case surveillance from 6/29/92 to 2/2/93.
Setting. University based PED (17,500 visits/year) in inner city Baltimore.
Participants. Cases were MAC children denied authorization to be seen for non-emergent conditions in the PED. Age and complaint matched MAC children were selected from the university based Pediatric Ambulatory Center (PAC) and from non-emergent PED visits (PED-seen) in order to compare utilization rates after denial.
Intervention. The Maryland Access to Care (MAC) Medicaid program (started in 12/91) emphasizes primary care and appropriate health care utilization by incorporating the following elements of managed care: assignment to primary care provider, gatekeeping, mandatory enrollment and fee for service.
Methods. Consecutive case surveillance from 6/29/92 to 2/2/93 was used to evaluate the health outcomes of MAC children denied authorization for non-emergent care in a university based PED. One week following denial, a pediatric nurse practitioner contacted the patient's caretaker and the MAC provider to ascertain health outcome. Medicaid claims data was used to compare the six month health care utilization of the denied group to age and complaint matched children seen in the PED (PED-seen) or in a primary care clinic (PAC).
Results. 216 MAC patients were not authorized for a PED visit by their MAC providers. 123 (57%) saw their MAC provider within one week of the denied PED visit. 40 (18%) were not seen because their presenting complaint had resolved completely. No adverse health outcomes occurred because of delay in health care delivery. The subsequent ER utilization rate of the denied group was the same as the PED-seen comparison group, and significantly higher than that of the PAC group (P = .002). The denied group was hospitalized at a significantly higher rate relative to these comparison groups (P = .003).
Conclusions. Diverting Medicaid children classified as non-emergent in an ER to their MAC providers can be a safe practice short-term. However, denial of a PED visit has no impact on subsequent ER utilization by Medicaid participants and may be associated with higher hospitalization rate. Gatekeeping in this setting does not necessarily change the health care seeking behavior of these patients.
- Received January 31, 1994.
- Accepted May 27, 1994.
- Copyright © 1995 by the American Academy of Pediatrics