Just three days after the U.S Supreme Court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on Thursday, the Health Care Cost Institute released disturbing results for the time period preceding the legislation.
In a report spanning 2007-2010, the institute found that spending on health care for children ages 18 and under grew faster in 2010 than in any other age group, and that total expenditure on children’s health care during the years increased more than inflation rates. Additionally, the estimated total spending on children rose 11.9 percent between 2007 and 2010.
“Children tend to use less expensive health care, so a bump in children’s health care spending is troubling because it could indicate that kids are getting sicker or receiving unnecessary tests or excess procedures,” HCCI Governing Board Chairman Martin Gaynor said. “The data on spending for mental health and substance abuse services is particularly worrying. We need to look further into why there is such a high use of prescription drugs for mental health problems among children and whether this expenditure is yielding valuable health outcomes.”
Other findings suggested the need for improved child-centered care:
- Infants and toddlers make up 17 percent of the population of children with employer-based coverage, but account for nearly one-third of total spending.
- Teens have the highest rate of health-spending growth.
- Use of anti-depressants, anti-anxiety and other central nervous system drugs is rising by double-digits and use is highest among teenagers, with prescriptions exceeding one per insured child.
- Use of mental health and substance abuse services by children rose 24 percent between 2007-2010.
The report used data from health care claims of children covered by employer-sponsored private health insurance, and not public programs such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Health care spending rose for such children despite decreased participants.
Read the full assessment, Children’s Health Care Spending Report: 2007-2010, online now.