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Pediatrics. 2001 Jun;107(6):1405-8.

Access to orthopedic care for children with medicaid versus private insurance in California.

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  • 1Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California, USA.



To compare the availability of timely orthopedic care to a child with a fractured arm insured by Medi-Cal (California state Medicaid) and by private insurance.


Fifty randomly chosen offices of orthopedic surgeons were telephoned with the following scenario: "My 10-year-old son broke his arm last week during a vacation" followed by a request for an appointment that week. Each office was called twice with an identical script except for insurance status: once with Medi-Cal and once with private insurance.


All 50 offices offered an appointment to see the child with private insurance within 7 days. Only 1 of the same 50 offices offered an appointment to see the child with Medi-Cal within 7 days. Of the offices that would not see a child with Medi-Cal, 87% were unable to recommend an orthopedic office that accepted Medi-Cal.


Timely access to orthopedic care was available in 100% of offices polled to a child with private insurance versus in 2% of offices to a child with Medi-Cal. This is a significant difference. Lack of timely orthopedic care may result in poor outcome, ie, if a fracture is not properly aligned in the first few weeks, a permanent deformity may result. Although causation cannot be established from this study, we suspect that Medi-Cal reimbursement rates below the cost of office overhead may be of significance. Although federal guidelines require that payments must be sufficient to enlist enough providers so that services to Medi-Cal recipients are available to the same extent as those available to the general population, this study finds that that children with Medi-Cal insurance have significantly less access to timely orthopedic care.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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