Background: There are no current national estimates on health care utilization and expenditures for US children with sickle cell disease (SCD).
Procedure: We used the MarketScan Medicaid Database and the MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters Database for 2005 to estimate health services use and expenditures. The final samples consisted of 2,428 Medicaid-enrolled and 621 privately insured children with SCD.
Results: The percentage of children with SCD enrolled in Medicaid with an inpatient admission was higher compared to those privately insured (43% vs. 38%), yet mean expenditures per admission were 35% lower ($6,469 vs. $10,013). The mean number of emergency department (ED) visits was 49% higher for Medicaid-enrolled children compared to those with private insurance (1.36 vs. 0.91), but mean expenditures per ED visit were 28% lower. The mean number of non-ED outpatient visits was similar (12.6 vs. 11.5) but mean expenditures were 40% lower for the Medicaid-enrolled children ($3,557 vs. $5,908). The mean expenditures on drug claims were higher among those with Medicaid than private insurance ($1,049 vs. $531). Mean total expenditures for children with SCD enrolled in Medicaid were 25% lower than for privately insured children ($11,075 vs. $14,722). The samples were comparable with respect to SCD-related inpatient discharge diagnoses and use of outpatient blood transfusions.
Conclusions: Children with SCD enrolled in Medicaid had lower expenditures than privately insured children, despite higher utilization of medical care, which indicates lower average reimbursements. Research is needed to assess the quality of care delivered to Medicaid-enrolled children with SCD and its relation to health outcomes.