To determine whether family resources predict use of therapeutic and supportive services and unmet needs in medical versus educational settings.
Children 5–17 years of age with at least one functional limitation (=3,434) from the 1994 to 1995 Disability Supplement to the U.S. National Health Interview Survey.
Family resources included the child's type of health insurance, household education level, and poverty status. Therapeutic services included audiology; social work; occupational, physical, or speech therapy. Supportive services included special equipment, personal care assistance, respite care, transportation, or environmental modifications. Need was controlled by child health status and the severity and type of functional limitation(s). Age, gender, race/ethnicity, family size, and structure were covariates.
Logistic regression provided estimates of associations between‐family resources and use of or unmet need for therapeutic and supportive services. Multinomial methods were used to determine therapeutic service outcomes in medical versus educational settings.
Children with public insurance were two to three times more likely to use services than children with private or no insurance regardless of type of service. Household education and public insurance were associated with supportive and therapeutic service use, but for therapeutic services only among children receiving services beyond the school setting. Household education predicted unmet need for both types of services and therapeutic services across settings. Findings should be interpreted cautiously, given the survey's dependence on respondent report to define the need for services and the potential for overrepresentation of children with more severe needs in the public insurance category.
Disparities in the use of services by household education level and by type of health insurance across service settings suggests inequitable access among the U.S. policies and programs serving children with functional limitations. Family income and education appear to give families an advantage in obtaining services and in identifying a child's unmet need.