Objective: To assess the impact of New York's State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) on health care for children with special health care needs (CSHCN).
Methods: Little is known about the impact of health insurance on CSHCN. Parents of a stratified random sample of new enrollees onto New York's SCHIP were interviewed by telephone at enrollment (n = 2644) and 1 year later (n = 2290, 87% response). At baseline, the cohort of CSHCN was defined by means of the standardized CSHCN screener instrument. The impact of SCHIP was assessed for CSHCN and for subgroups of CSHCN stratified by prior insurance (uninsured or insured) or type of chronic condition (physical or mental/behavioral). Access (having a usual source of care [USC], unmet medical needs); and quality (continuity of care at the USC, parent rating of quality of care or worry about child) were measured. Bivariate and multivariate analyses compared measures 1 year before SCHIP versus the year during SCHIP.
Results: A total of 398 (17%) of 2290 children had special health care needs identified at baseline. Enrollment onto SCHIP was generally associated with improved access: unmet needs for prescription medications declined 3-fold for all subgroups (eg, 36% to 9% among the previously uninsured) and unmet needs for specialty care declined >4-fold among CSHCN who were previously insured (48% to 10%) or had mental/behavioral conditions (32% to 2%; all P < .05). Enrollment was associated with improved continuity with the USC, parent-reported quality of care, and worry, irrespective of prior insurance or type of chronic condition (P < .05).
Conclusions: Enrollment onto New York's SCHIP improved medical care for CSHCN.