- In the U.S., healthcare spending per child jumped from $1,915 to $2,777 between 1996 and 2013, according to a new study in JAMA Pediatrics.
- The researchers only examined direct spending on care, so the figures do not include such costs as child care.
- Of non-wellness care, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is associated with the highest spending.
Healthcare spending for children is big business, a $233.5 billion industry as of 2013. Surprisingly, two of the three most expensive spending categories were for wellness care: Inpatient well-newborn care ($7.9 billion) and well-dental care ($18.2 billion).
This new research echoes the results of a Health Care Cost Institute report that examined healthcare spending from 2010 to 2013 for children covered by employer-sponsored health insurance. During that time, spending for all people up to age 64 averaged 3.9% growth annually. However, spending on children rose an average of 5.7% annually.
According to the JAMA Pediatrics study, ADHD was responsible for $20.6 billion in spending in 2013, and use of medications to treat the neurobehavioral condition increased 28% between 2007 and 2011. Given the somewhat controversial nature of the diagnosis, as well as evidence that a spike in the use of the ADHD medication Adderall is likely due to diversion of the medication, ADHD spending is likely to fall under closer scrutiny.
The researchers suggest that as a next step, the factors driving increased health care spending and any improvements in processes or outcomes should be analyzed. “It is crucial to understand whether spending increases have been appropriate or misguided and how we might target spending increases and reductions now and in the future,” they concluded.