Factors Associated with Urgent Care Reliance and Outpatient Health Care Use among Children Enrolled in Medicaid

Rebecca R. Burns*, Elizabeth R. Alpern, Jonathan Rodean, Therese Canares, Brian R. Lee, Matt Hall, Amanda Montalbano

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Importance: Urgent care (UC) centers are a growing option to address children's acute care needs, which may cause unanticipated changes in health care use. Objectives: To identify factors associated with high UC reliance among children enrolled in Medicaid and examine the association between UC reliance and outpatient health care use. Design, Setting, and Participants: A retrospective cohort study used deidentified data on 4133238 children from the Marketscan Medicaid multistate claims database to calculate UC reliance and outpatient health care use. Children were younger than 19 years, with 11 months or more of continuous Medicaid enrollment and 1 or more UC, emergency department (ED), primary care provider (PCP; physician, advanced practice nurse, or physician assistant; well-child care [WCC] or non-WCC), or specialist outpatient visit during the 2017 calendar year. Statistical analysis was conducted from November 11 to 26, 2019. Exposures: Urgent care, ED, PCP (WCC and non-WCC), and specialist visits based on coded location of services. Main Outcomes and Measures: Urgent care reliance, calculated by the number of UC visits divided by the sum of total outpatient (UC, ED, PCP, and specialist) visits. High UC reliance was defined as UC visits totaling more than 33% of all outpatient visits. Results: Of 4133238 children in the study, 2090278 (50.6%) were male, with a median age of 9 years (interquartile range, 4-13 years). A total of 223239 children (5.4%) had high UC reliance. Children 6 to 12 years of age were more likely to have high UC reliance compared with children 13 to 18 years of age (adjusted odds ratio, 1.07; 95% CI, 1.06-1.09). Compared with white children, black children (adjusted odds ratio, 0.81; 95% CI, 0.81-0.82) and Hispanic children (adjusted odds ratio, 0.61; 95% CI, 0.60-0.61) were less likely to have high UC reliance. Adjusted for age, sex, race/ethnicity, and presence of chronic or complex conditions, children with high UC reliance had significantly fewer PCP encounters (WCC: Adjusted rate ratio, 0.60; 95% CI, 0.60-0.61; and non-WCC: Adjusted rate ratio, 0.41; 95% CI, 0.41-0.41), specialist encounters (adjusted rate ratio, 0.31; 95% CI, 0.31-0.31), and ED encounters (adjusted rate ratio, 0.68; 95% CI, 0.67-0.68) than children with low UC reliance. Conclusions and Relevance: High UC reliance occurred more often in healthy, nonminority, school-aged children and was associated with lower health care use across other outpatient settings. There may be an opportunity in certain populations to ensure that UC reliance does not disrupt the medical home model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere204185
JournalJAMA network open
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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