Managed care and the pediatric emergency department

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9 Scopus citations


The growth of managed care has provided health benefits to millions of children while attempting to control the increase in health care costs. In adhering to these goals, MCOs are often at odds with emergency departments, and the emergency department physicians providing emergency care. The appropriateness or inappropriateness of emergency department visits can be disputed, but no criteria have been established. Even the definition of emergency is debated, although many states are adopting a prudent layperson standard. Emergency medicine physicians, primary care providers, and MCOs must cooperate to fully educate parents about the appropriate use of pediatric emergency services. Patients and MCOs should use facilities that can deliver pediatric emergency and critical care or provide appropriate transport systems to facilities that can. COBRA and EMTALA set the legal requirements to which emergency departments must comply when patients present for care. The basic caveats under COBRA require a medical screening examination for every patient and the stabilization of all patients with emergency medical conditions before inquiring about insurance or patients' ability to pay. A part of gatekeeping, MCOs often require authorization for treatment. MCOs authorize payment only. Evaluation and emergency treatment should not be withheld pending authorization. After the medical screening examination, recommended treatment should be in patients' best interests. All patients with potentially life-threatening conditions should be stabilized before transport, and all transfers must comply with the EMTALA. The transfer of unstable patients purely for economic reasons is a violation of the EMTALA. When stable, patients may be transferred to other facilities, but patients requiring specialty care should be taken to facilities best able to provide that care. Financial considerations should be superseded by medical necessity. Finally, improvements can be made in the way emergency medical service is provided to children within the current managed care system. The primary care provider is in a key position to inform parents about the types of pediatric emergencies, what to do in case one occurs, and to provide follow-up care. MCOs should incorporate clear information on pediatric emergencies. A mutual understanding of services needed, and how best to provide those services, are needed to forge a system that is responsive to children's emergency care needs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1329-1340
Number of pages12
JournalPediatric Clinics of North America
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999


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