Data show wide variations in pediatric care

New data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) in Rockville, MD, indicate that while the majority of parents report that their experiences with health care for their children are good, there are significant variations by age, race/ethnicity, and type of insurance coverage.

The data provide the first nationally representative information about parents’ experiences with health care for their children. These data were collected in 2000 and early 2001 through a new questionnaire added to AHRQ’s Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). The questions were taken from AHRQ’s CAHPS, a research-based, validated survey tool that assesses people’s experiences with their own health plans.

Parents of a nationally representative sample of 6,500 children younger than 18 were asked about the timeliness in which their children received needed and routine medical care and their experiences during their children’s care.

Parents of publicly insured and uninsured children (20.4% and 15.8%, respectively) were more likely to report having a problem receiving necessary care during a physician’s office or clinic visit than were parents of privately insured children (7.9%). They also were more likely (11.9% and 8%) to report that the health provider never or only sometimes explained things carefully than were parents of privately insured children (3.4%).

Other findings include:

• Parents of black children were more likely than those of white or Hispanic children to report that their providers always showed respect for what they had to say (75.4% of blacks, 66.9% of whites, and 63.7% of Hispanics, respectively).

• Black and white children were more likely than Hispanic children to have their parents report that their providers always explained things in a way they could understand (74.3% of blacks, 69.1% of whites, and 62% of Hispanics, respectively).

• Hispanic children were less likely than white or black children always to get appointments f or routine care as soon as their parents wanted (45% of Hispanic children, 53.7% of white children, and 53.8% of black children).

• Uninsured children were less likely than those with private coverage to have their parents report that their providers always spent enough time with them (49.5% of uninsured children, 54.6% of children with public insurance, 57.5% of children with private coverage).

• Uninsured children ages 6 to 17 were much less likely than children that age with public insurance or those with private coverage always to receive care for an illness or injury as soon as their parents wanted (41.9% for uninsured children, 56.1% for publicly insured children, and 64.9% for privately insured children).

MEPS collects information annually on health care use, expenses, access, health status, and quality from a nationally representative sample which, in 2000, consisted of 24,000 adults and children and 10,000 households.

[For more information, contact:

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2101 E. Jefferson St., Suite 501, Rockville, MD 20852. Telephone: (301) 594-1364. E-mail: info@ahrq.gov. Internet: www.ahrq.gov.]