Document Type


Publication Date



DOI: 10.1186/s12913-020-05409-w; PMCID: PMC7291721


BACKGROUND: In the United States (US), Medicaid capitated managed care costs are controlled by optimizing patients' healthcare utilization. Adults in capitated plans utilize primary care providers (PCP) more than emergency departments (ED), compared to fee-for-service (FFS). Pediatric data are lacking. We aim to determine the association between US capitated and FFS Medicaid payment models and children's outpatient utilization.

METHODS: This retrospective cohort compared outpatient utilization between two payment models of US Medicaid enrollees aged 1-18 years using Truven's 2014 Marketscan Medicaid database. Children enrolled > 11 months were included, and were excluded for eligibility due to disability/complex chronic condition, lack of outpatient utilization, or provider capitation penetration rate < 5% or > 95%. Negative binomial and logistic regression assessed relationships between payment model and number of visits or odds of utilization, respectively.

RESULTS: Of 711,008 children, 66,980(9.4%) had FFS and 644,028(90.6%) had capitated plans. Children in capitated plans had greater odds of visits to urgent care, PCP-acute, and PCP-well-child care (aOR 1.21[95%CI 1.15-1.26]; aOR 2.07[95%CI 2.03-2.13]; aOR 1.86 [95%CI 1.82-1.91], respectively), and had lower odds of visits to EDs and specialty care (aOR 0.82 [95%CI 0.8-0.83]; aOR 0.61 [95%CI 0.59-0.62], respectively), compared to FFS.

CONCLUSIONS: The majority of children in this US Medicaid population had capitated plans associated with higher utilization of acute care, but increased proportion of lower-cost sites, such as PCP-acute visits and UC. Health insurance programs that encourage capitated payment models and care through the PCP may improve access to timely acute care in lower-cost settings for children with non-complex chronic conditions.

Journal Title

BMC health services research [electronic resource]





First Page


Last Page



Accountable care organizations; Acute/subacute care; Ambulatory care; Capitation/payment methods; Emergency care; Managed care administration; Medicare/Medicaid; Urgent care


This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

Publisher's Link: