Effects of Medicaid Managed Care Policies on Mental Health Service Use Among a National Probability Sample of Children in the Child Welfare System

Published In: Children and youth Services Review, v. 28, no. 12, Dec. 2006, p. 1482-1496

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2005

by Ramesh Raghavan, Arleen Leibowitz, Ronald Andersen, Bonnie T. Zima, Mark A. Schuster, John Landsverk

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Children in the child welfare system are dependent upon Medicaid to finance services for their considerable mental health needs. This study examines the effects of Medicaid policies on mental health service use among a national probability sample of children in the child welfare system. Data for this study came from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, the Caring for Children in Child Welfare study, and the Area Resource File. Weighted multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted to estimate effects of policy variables on children's use of mental health services, controlling for child-level covariates and county-level health resources. Children in counties with behavioral carve-outs under Medicaid managed care had lower odds of inpatient mental health service use. Medicaid managed care enrollment and variations in type of provider reimbursement did not affect use of mental health services. Older age, greater need for mental health services, and higher levels of caregiver education were associated with increased odds of service use. Restrictions on use of inpatient mental healthcare caused by behavioral carve-outs may disproportionately affect children in the child welfare system who have high rates of such use. Careful adoption of carve-outs is necessary to assure appropriate care for these children.

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