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Lack of insurance could impact care access during mental health emergencies

Having insurance may mean the difference between being admitted to a hospital or transferred elsewhere for children and teenagers who visit the emergency department (ED) for a mental health emergency. Researchers are the University of California (UC) Davis Children’s Hospital and UC Davis psychiatry department in Sacramento, published a study in Pediatric Emergency Care that looked at the potential link.

The researchers used the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project 2014 Nationwide Emergency Department Sample to find pediatric mental health ED admission and transfer events. The total sample included 9081 acute mental health ED events. The odds of a child without insurance being transferred to another hospital were 3.3 times that of a child who had private insurance. Children who had Medicaid were as likely to be transferred to another facility as a child who had private insurance. For children without insurance, the odds of being transferred to another hospital were highest if they were presenting with depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, attention-deficit/conduct disorders, and schizophrenia.


The researchers concluded that further research will be need to discover ways to protect children and teenagers who do not have any form of insurance from the disparity in access to care. In the press release for the study, senior author James P. Marcin, MD, MPH, stated that he was looking into how telemedicine could help bridge the gap for UC Davis patients.