Impact of the Oregon Health Plan on Children with Special Health Care Needs
OBJECTIVE: Although an increasing number of Medicaid children are enrolled in Medicaid managed care plans, little is known about how children with special health care needs fare under such programs. Of particular concern is the ability of such children to navigate a managed care system and gain access to specialty and other services. This study compares the managed care experiences of children with and without special care needs in the Oregon Health Plan. METHODOLOGY: Telephone surveys were conducted with a sample of parents of children enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan. Three groups of children were sampled: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) children with disabilities, children with asthma, and children without special health care needs. Descriptive and multivariate analyses were conducted to determine the impact of Medicaid managed care on access and satisfaction. RESULTS: Children with disabilities in managed care plans did not experience any more difficulty accessing needed specialty care than did those without special health care needs. Children with asthma, however, reported higher levels of unmet need. There were no differences in access between children with disabilities enrolled in managed care and those children with disabilities remaining in fee-for-service. CONCLUSIONS: Unlike SSI children with disabilities, children who were not SSI-eligible but had asthma seemed to have difficulty obtaining some services. These children were not eligible for the same consumer protections afforded SSI children by Oregon. If states want to enroll all children with special health care needs into managed care programs, they must develop mechanisms for identifying such children and ensuring that they receive medically necessary services.