Utilization, quality, and spending for pediatric Medicaid enrollees with primary care in health centers vs non-health centers

BMC Pediatr. 2024 Feb 8;24(1):100. doi: 10.1186/s12887-024-04547-y.


Background: Limited research has explored the performance of health centers (HCs) compared to other primary care settings among children in the United States. We evaluated utilization, quality, and expenditures for pediatric Medicaid enrollees receiving care in HCs versus non-HCs.

Methods: This national cross-sectional study utilized 2012 Medicaid Analytic eXtract (MAX) claims to examine children 0-17 years with a primary care visit, stratified by whether majority (> 50%) of primary care visits were at HCs or non-HCs. Outcome measures include utilization (primary care visits, non-primary care outpatient visits, prescription claims, Emergency Department (ED) visits, hospitalizations) and quality (well-child visits, avoidable ED visits, avoidable hospitalizations). For children enrolled in fee-for-service Medicaid, we also measured expenditures. Propensity score-based overlap weighting was used to balance covariates.

Results: A total of 2,383,270 Medicaid-enrolled children received the majority of their primary care at HCs, while 18,540,743 did at non-HCs. In adjusted analyses, HC patients had 20% more primary care visits, 15% less non-primary care outpatient visits, and 21% less prescription claims than non-HC patients. ED visits were similar across the two groups, while HC patients had 7% lower chance of hospitalization than non-HC. Quality of care outcomes favored HC patients in main analyses, but results were less robust when excluding managed care beneficiaries. Total expenditures among the fee-for-service subpopulation were lower by $239 (8%) for HC patients.

Conclusions: In this study of nationwide claims data to evaluate healthcare utilization, quality, and spending among Medicaid-enrolled children who receive primary care at HCs versus non-HCs, findings suggest primary care delivery in HCs may be associated with a more cost-effective model of healthcare for children.

Keywords: Children; Health centers; Medicaid; Primary care.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Medicaid*
  • Primary Health Care
  • United States