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Health Care for Children and Youth in the United States: Annual Report on Patterns of Coverage, Utilization, Quality, and Expenditures by a County Level of Urban Influence

      Objective

      To examine child and hospital demographics and children’s health care coverage, use, expenditures, and quality by a county-level measure of urban influence.

      Methods

      Two national health care databases serve as the sources of data for this report: the 2002 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) and the 2002 Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS) and State Inpatient Databases (SID) from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP). In both data sets, county urbanicity is defined by use of a collapsed version of the 2003 Urban Influence Codes, to distinguish among children residing in and hospitals located in large metropolitan (metro) counties, small metro counties, micropolitan counties, and noncore counties.

      Results

      Demographics. In large metro counties, greater percentages of the child population are Hispanic or black non-Hispanic than in small metro, micropolitan, and noncore counties; in micropolitan and noncore counties, higher proportions of children are below 200% of the federal poverty level than in large metro and small metro counties. Noncore areas have a greater percentage of children in fair or poor health compared with those in small metro and micropolitan counties. Most hospitals are located in large and small metro areas, and large metro areas have a higher proportion of teaching hospitals compared with other areas. Health care. In general, there were no overall differences by place of residence in the proportion of children with and without insurance, although differences emerged in subpopulations within Urban Influence Code types. Hispanic children residing in large metro counties were more likely to be uninsured than those in small metro counties. Overall, the proportion of children with at least one dental visit was larger in small metro areas compared with both large metro and noncore areas. The proportion of children with medicines prescribed was generally lower in large metro areas compared with all other areas both overall and among subpopulations of children. Children in noncore areas were more likely to have a hospital inpatient stay and any emergency department use compared with children in large metro areas. Children in large metro counties had longer average inpatient stays and a higher hospital inpatient charge per day compared with children in all other counties. Although most hospitalizations for children from large metro areas occurred in large metro areas, over half of hospitalizations for noncore children occurred outside of noncore counties. Further, children from noncore counties appear to be hospitalized for ambulatory sensitive conditions more than children from all other areas.

      Conclusions

      County-level data analyses performed using a collapsed version of the Urban Influence Codes with MEPS and HCUP data shed additional light on the health care patterns for children that were not previously evident when only the dichotomous metropolitan/nonmetropolitan geographic schema was used.

      Key words

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