Improved asthma care after enrollment in the State Children's Health Insurance Program in New York

Peter G Szilagyi, Andrew W Dick, Jonathan D Klein, Laura P Shone, Jack Zwanziger, Alina Bajorska, H Lorrie Yoos
Pediatrics 2006, 117 (2): 486-96

BACKGROUND: Uninsured children with asthma are known to face barriers to asthma care, but little is known about the impact of health insurance on asthma care.

OBJECTIVES: We sought to assess the impact of New York's State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) on health care for children with asthma.

DESIGN: Parents of a stratified random sample of new enrollees in New York's SCHIP were interviewed by telephone shortly after enrollment (baseline, n = 2644 [74% of eligible children]) and 1 year later (follow-up, n = 2310 [87%]). Asthma was defined by parent report using questions based on National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute criteria. A comparison group (n = 401) who enrolled in SCHIP 1 year later was interviewed as a test for secular trends.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Access (having a usual source of care [USC], unmet health needs, problems receiving acute asthma care), asthma-related medical visits, quality (continuity of care at the USC, problems receiving chronic asthma care, use of antiinflammatory medications), and asthma outcomes (change in asthma care or severity) were the main outcome measures used. Bivariate and multivariate analyses compared measures at baseline (year before SCHIP) versus follow-up (year during SCHIP).

RESULTS: Three-hundred eighty-three children (14%) had asthma at baseline, and 364 had asthma at follow-up (16%). No secular trends were detected between the baseline study group and the comparison group. After enrollment in SCHIP, improvements were noted in access: lacking a USC (decrease from 5% to 1%), unmet health needs (48% to 21%), and problems getting to the USC for asthma (13 to 4%). Children had fewer asthma-related attacks and medical visits after SCHIP (mean number of attacks: 9.5 to 3.8: mean number of asthma visits: 3.0 to 1.5; hospitalizations: 11% to 3%). Quality of asthma care improved for general measures (most/all visits to USC: 53% to 94%; mean rating of provider: 7.9 to 8.8 of 10) and asthma-specific measures (problems getting to the USC for asthma care when child was well: 13% to 1%). More than two thirds of the parents at follow-up reported that both quality of asthma care and asthma severity were "better or much better" than at baseline, generally because of insurance coverage or lower costs of medications and medical care.

CONCLUSIONS: Enrollment in New York's SCHIP was associated with improvements in access to asthma care, quality of asthma care, and asthma-specific outcomes. These findings suggest that health insurance improves the health of children with asthma.

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