Out-of-pocket health care costs for disabled children vary widely by state

July 14, 2008

The size of the financial burden on families with disabled children largely depends on which state they live in, according to a new study conducted by the schools of social work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.

According to researchers, parents in states with higher average incomes face smaller burdens – meaning in contrast, more vulnerable families in poorer states often pay more of their own money to cover their disabled children's health-care costs.

The study found families in Georgia fared the worst, paying an annual average of $972 out-of-pocket to care for their disabled children. That's nearly $200 more, on average, than families spend nationwide on children with special health-care needs.

In North Carolina, out-of-pocket costs also exceeded the national average, with families spending $856 annually.

"These are disturbing findings that highlight the high costs families face in raising their children with disabilities and health conditions, and it shows that the state in which a family lives really does matter," said Susan Parish, an assistant professor at the UNC School of Social Work. Parish co-authored the study with Paul Shattuck, the report's lead investigator and an assistant professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.

The study, which was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, appears in the July issue of the American Academy of Pediatrics Journal.

Parish said the costs of caring for children with special health-care needs are high, relative to those for typically developing children, because of their greater requirements for both primary and specialty medical care, as well as therapeutic and supportive services such as rehabilitation, assistive devices and mental health, home health and respite care.

"The financial burden associated with raising these children has important clinical and social implications. Understanding that burden is especially pressing, given it's estimated that between about 13 to 16 percent of U.S. children have special health-care needs," Parish said.

Of the nearly 39,000 families included in the research, about 91 percent reported spending some money out-of-pocket on special health-care needs for their children. These expenses ranged from medications to home therapy. The study looked at families with similar household demographics and involved children with a range of disabilities, including mental retardation, asthma and spina bifida, Parish said.

The report, which was based on 2002 data from the National Center for Health Statistics, also looked closely at gross family income to highlight disparities among the states. In North Carolina, for example, a family with a gross income of $50,000 spent almost $1,100 annually to care for its disabled children. A family in Louisiana earning the same amount paid about $1,600 annually.

"What we found was not only was the financial burden higher in some states, it was higher for poor families," Parish said. "We need to understand how state policies are affecting children with disabilities."

Families in Massachusetts felt the least financial pinch. On average, they paid $562 yearly on health care for their disabled children.

Source: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Explore further: Study finds solving obesity epidemic can start at home

Related Stories

Study finds solving obesity epidemic can start at home

September 21, 2017
Fighting the wave of adolescent obesity in New Zealand could be as simple as establishing family rules and routines around food consumption and limiting screen time, a new University of Otago study has found.

Your kids weathered the storm, now what?

September 21, 2017
Families are slowly trying to return to normalcy after the devastating Hurricane Irma. As power is restored, schools reopen and the clean-up continues, Jonathan Comer, professor of psychology and psychiatry at Florida International ...

One in four girls is depressed at age 14, new study reveals

September 20, 2017
New research shows a quarter of girls (24%) and one in 10 boys (9%) are depressed at age 14.

Children of convicts transported to Australia grew up taller than their peers in the UK

September 18, 2017
The children of convicts born in the Australian colonies grew up taller than they would have done if their parents had not been sent into exile, our latest study shows.

Partnering with the community to advance health care quality for immigrant children

September 15, 2017
The grade school student has been a patient for a while, but during a routine visit, 9-year-old Pedro finally confides that he has had headaches and difficulty concentrating in school for weeks now. Pedro tells you he worries ...

Online calculator estimates the impact of changes in breastfeeding rates on population health

September 15, 2017
In a new study published in Breastfeeding Medicine, researchers have created an online calculator to estimate the impact of changes in breastfeeding rates on population health.

Recommended for you

Study finds being in a good mood for your flu jab boosts its effectiveness

September 25, 2017
New research by a team of health experts at the University of Nottingham has found evidence that being in a positive mood on the day of your flu jab can increase its protective effect.

New tool demonstrates high cost of lack of sleep in the workplace

September 25, 2017
Sleep disorders and sleep deficiency are hidden costs that affect employers across America. Seventy percent of Americans admit that they routinely get insufficient sleep, and 30 percent of U.S. workers and 44 percent of night ...

Maternal diet could affect kids' brain reward circuitry

September 25, 2017
Researchers in France found that rats who ate a junk food diet during pregnancy had heavier pups that strongly preferred the taste of fat straight after weaning. While a balanced diet in childhood seemed to reduce the pups' ...

Breathing dirty air may harm kidneys, study finds

September 21, 2017
Outdoor air pollution has long been linked to major health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. A new study now adds kidney disease to the list, according to ...

Excess dietary manganese promotes staph heart infection

September 21, 2017
Too much dietary manganese—an essential trace mineral found in leafy green vegetables, fruits and nuts—promotes infection of the heart by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus ("staph").

Being active saves lives whether a gym workout, walking to work or washing the floor

September 21, 2017
Physical activity of any kind can prevent heart disease and death, says a large international study involving more than 130,000 people from 17 countries published this week in The Lancet.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.