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November 1997

Impact of a New Universal Purchase Vaccine Program in North Carolina

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Community Pediatrics (Dr Freed), the Departments of Health Policy and Administration (Drs Freed and Biddle) and Family Medicine (Dr Pathman), and Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research (Drs Freed, Pathman, Clark, and Konrad and Ms Schectman), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151(11):1117-1124. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1997.02170480047007

Objective:  To explore the effects of state universal purchase (UP) of vaccines for all children, regardless of income or insurance status, on North Carolina physicians and families.

Design:  Cross-sectional survey.

Participants:  Pediatricians and family physicians (N=2163) were surveyed in 1995 to compare immunization charges in North Carolina (new UP) with those of Massachusetts (UP) and Texas (free market).

Main Outcome Measures:  Patient charges for immunizations and well-child visits and physician perceptions of the effects of state immunization programs. Models were devised to simulate the net effect of the North Carolina UP program on immunization revenue for physicians and on families' out-of-pocket costs for well-child care.

Results:  Physician participation rates in the 2 UP programs were very high. North Carolina physicians reported substantial decreases in immunization charges and reduced referrals to public clinics, but thought that UP increased their administrative burden. Sixty percent of North Carolina physicians increased charges for well-child visits, nearly twice that in the 2 control states. Families who previously had received immunizations from public clinics but chose to remain in the private-sector "medical home" for immunizations after implementation of UP had increased out-of-pocket expenses that varied by their insurance status.

Conclusions:  The North Carolina UP program is effective in decreasing patient immunization charges and reducing referrals to public clinics. However, UP does not eliminate cost as a barrier to immunization, nor does it enable all children to remain in their medical homes. Underinsured children still may face considerable financial barriers to immunization in a UP system.Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151:1117-1124