Background: Access to health care services is a critical component of health care reform and may differ among patients with different types of insurance. Hypothesis/Purpose: The purpose was to compare adolescents with private and public insurance undergoing surgery for anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and/or meniscal tears. We hypothesized that patients with public insurance would have a delayed presentation from the time of injury and therefore would have a higher incidence of chondral injuries and irreparable meniscal tears and lower preoperative International Knee Documentation Committee (IKDC) scores than patients with private insurance.
Study design: Cross-sectional study; Level of evidence, 3.
Methods: This was a retrospective study of patients under 21 years of age undergoing ACL reconstruction and/or meniscal repair or debridement from January 2013 to March 2016 at a single pediatric sports medicine center. Patients were identified by a search of Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes. A chart review was performed for insurance type; preoperative diagnosis; date of injury, initial office visit, and surgery; preoperative IKDC score; intraoperative findings; and procedures.
Results: The study group consisted of 119 patients (mean age, 15.0 ± 1.7 years). Forty-one percent of patients had private insurance, while 59% had public insurance. There were 27 patients with isolated meniscal tears, 59 with combined meniscal and ACL tears, and 33 with isolated ACL tears. The mean time from injury to presentation was 56 days (range, 0-457 days) in patients with private insurance and 136 days (range, 0-1120 days) in patients with public insurance ( P = .02). Surgery occurred, on average, 35 days after the initial office visit in both groups. The mean preoperative IKDC score was 53 in both groups. Patients with meniscal tears with public insurance were more likely to require meniscal debridement than patients with private insurance (risk ratio [RR], 2.3; 95% CI, 1.7-3.1; P = .02). Patients with public insurance were more likely to have chondral injuries of grade 2 or higher (RR, 4.4; 95% CI, 3.9-5.0; P = .02).
Conclusion: In adolescent patients with ACL or meniscal tears, patients with public insurance had a more delayed presentation than those with private insurance. They also tended to have more moderate-to-severe chondral injuries and meniscal tears, if present, that required debridement rather than repair. More rapid access to care might improve the prognosis of young patients with ACL and meniscal injuries with public insurance.
Keywords: ACL; access to care; economics; epidemiology; insurance; knee; meniscus; pediatric sports medicine.