Access to Care for Youth with Special Health Care Needs in the Transition to Adulthood

Published In: The Journal of Adolescent Health, v. 43, no. 1, July 2008, p. 23-29

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2008

by Debra Lotstein, Moira Inkelas, Ron D. Hays, Neal Halfon, Robert H. Brook

PURPOSE: To describe access to care and identify factors associated with access for low-income young adults who aged out of a public program for children with special health care needs (CSHCN). METHODS: This was a cross-sectional survey of graduates of the Title V CSHCN program in one California county. Subjects were 77 graduates (55% female) aged 21-24 years with ongoing health care needs. Measures of access to care included having the following: a regular source of care for the main health condition; all needed care since turning 21 years of age; any delayed or forgone care in the past 6 months; health insurance; and continual insurance since turning age 21. Individuals lacking any one access measure were defined as experiencing an adverse transition event. RESULTS: Of the subjects, 24% lacked a usual source of health care, 27% had gone without some needed health care since turning 21, and 39% had delayed needed care. Although 10% of respondents were uninsured at the time of the survey; 40% had a gap in insurance coverage since turning age 21. Overall, 65% reported at least one adverse transition event affecting access to care. Factors associated with experiencing no adverse transition event were receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI, p = .007), having received special education services (p = .003), and having been born with the main health condition (p = .013). CONCLUSIONS: Insurance gaps and delayed care are prevalent among these low-income young adults despite ongoing health problems. Greater transition support might improve access by linking them with a usual source of care, identifying insurance options, and encouraging regular use of care.

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