The effect of insurance benefit changes on use of child and adolescent outpatient mental health services

Deborah K. Padgett, Cathleen Patrick, Barbara J. Burns, Herbert J. Schlesinger, Jacob Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Use of outpatient mental health services by dependent children younger than 18 years of age enrolled in the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Federal Employees Plan (FEP) is examined in 1978 and 1983 focusing on a cut in benefits and a shift from high- to low-option plan enrollment between those years. While use rates increased from 2.13% to 2.76% by 1983, the average number of visits decreased from 18.9 to 12.8. High-option plan use exceeded low-option plan use in both years-2.26% versus 0.81% in 1978 and 3.58% versus 1.93% in 1983. In addition to benefit plan, ethnicity, parent’s education, type of provider, and type of treatment setting also significantly predicted amount of use. Despite the strong evidence of the effects of benefit coverage, it is likely that need exceeded use even in this insured population of children and adolescents. Implications of the findings are discussed in the context of recent dramatic changes in mental service delivery including privatization, managed care initiatives to cut costs, and growing pressures for national health insurance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)96-110
Number of pages15
JournalMedical care
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1993


  • Child and adolescent
  • Insurance benefit coverage
  • Outpatient mental health treatment
  • Service utilization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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