DOI: 10.1097/jhm-d-23-00031 ISSN: 1096-9012

Differences in Healthcare Utilization in Children with Developmental Disabilities Following Value-Based Care Coordination Policies

Li Huang, Jarron M. Saint Onge
  • Strategy and Management
  • Health Policy
  • General Medicine
  • Leadership and Management



To address healthcare spending growth, coordinate care, and improve primary care utilization, a majority of states in the United States have adopted value-based care coordination programs. The objective of this study was to identify changes in national healthcare utilization for children with developmental disabilities (DDs), a high-cost and high-need population, following the broad adoption of value-based care coordination policies.


This retrospective study included 9,109 children with DDs and used data from 2002–2018 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. We applied an interrupted time series design approach to compare pre- and post-Affordable Care Act (ACA) care coordination policies concerning healthcare utilization outcomes, including outpatient visits, home provider days, emergency department (ED) visits, inpatient discharge, and inpatient nights of stay.

Principal Findings:

We found statistically significant increases in low-cost care post-ACA, including outpatient visits (5% higher, p < .001) and home provider days (11% higher, p < .001). The study findings also showed a statistically significant increase in inpatient nights of stay post-ACA (4% higher, p = .001). There were no changes in the number of ED and inpatient visits. Overall, broad implementation of care coordination programs was associated with increased utilization of low-cost care without increases in the number of high-cost ED and inpatient visits for children with DDs. Our study also found changes in population composition among children with DDs post-ACA, including increases in Hispanic (16.9% post-ACA vs. 13.4% pre-ACA, p = .006) and non-Hispanic multiracial children (9.1% post-ACA vs. 5.5% pre-ACA, p = .001), a decrease in non-Hispanic Whites (60.2% post-ACA vs. 68.6% pre-ACA, p = .001), more public-only insurance (44.3% post-ACA vs. 35.7% pre-ACA, p = .001), fewer children with DDs from middle-income families (27.4% post-ACA vs. 32.8% pre-ACA, p < .001), and more children with DDs from poor families (28.2% post-ACA vs. 25.1% pre-ACA, p = .043).

Practical Applications:

These findings highlight the importance of continued support for broad care coordination programs for U.S. children with DDs and potentially others with complex chronic conditions. Policymakers and healthcare leaders might consider improving care transitions from inpatient to community or home settings by overcoming barriers such as payment models and the lack of home care nurses who can manage complex chronic conditions. Healthcare leaders also need to understand and consider the changing population composition when implementing care coordination-related policies. This study provides data regarding trends in hospital and home care utilization and evidence of the effectiveness of care coordination policies before the COVID-19 interruption. These findings apply to current healthcare management because COVID-19 has incentivized home care, which may have a strong potential to minimize high-cost care for people with complex chronic conditions. More research is warranted to continue monitoring care coordination changes over a longer period.

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