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January 1999

Changing Patterns of Conditions Among Children Receiving Supplemental Security Income Disability Benefits

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Pediatrics, Massachusetts General Hospital (Drs Perrin and Kuhlthau); Departments of Pediatrics (Dr Perrin), Primary Care and Prevention (Dr McLaughlin) and Health Care Policy (Dr Ettner), Harvard Medical School; and the Department of Health and Social Behavior, Harvard School of Public Health (Dr Gortmaker); Boston, Mass.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1999;153(1):80-84. doi:10.1001/archpedi.153.1.80

Objective  To determine the relative growth of types of chronic health conditions among children and adolescents receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits before and after major SSI program changes, including changes in definitions of childhood disability and outreach to identify eligible children.

Design  Retrospective analysis of Medicaid claims from California, Georgia, Michigan, and Tennessee.

Participants  All children (aged ≤21 years) newly enrolled in SSI programs in these states from July 1989 (n=21,222) to June 1992 (n=38,789).

Methods  Medicaid data indicate eligibility status and diagnoses for services rendered. For children newly enrolled before (time 1, July 1989 to June 1990), during (time 2, July 1990 to June 1991), and after (time 3, July 1991 to June 1992) the program changes, we used claims for the first 6 months of enrollment to determine rates of chronic conditions in general and rates of asthma, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and mental retardation specifically. We also followed up time 1 enrollees during the study period to determine the likelihood of a chronic condition claim at any time.

Main Outcome Measure  Presence of claims for chronic conditions.

Results  New SSI enrollees almost doubled during the study period. Increasing numbers of new enrollees had chronic condition claims in their first 6 months (from 29% to 36%); 58% of time 1 enrollees had such claims during any study month. Rates of chronic physical conditions other than asthma increased 14% (time 1 to time 3); asthma rates increased 73%. Rates of mental health conditions other than mental retardation and ADHD increased 63%; rates of mental retardation decreased 29%, while rates of ADHD increased almost 3-fold.

Conclusions  The number of children with chronic conditions receiving SSI benefits experienced rapid growth from 1989 to 1992. Growth was particularly marked for children with diagnoses of asthma and ADHD.