Objective: To examine national trends in hospital utilization, costs, and expenditures for children with mental health conditions.
Methods: The analyses of children aged 1 to 17 are based on AHRQ's 2006 and 2011 Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS) and Nationwide Emergency Department Sample (NEDS) databases, and on AHRQ's pooled 2006 to 2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). All estimates are nationally representative, and standard errors account for the complex survey designs.
Results: Although overall all-cause children's hospitalizations did not increase between 2006 and 2011, hospitalizations for all listed mental health conditions increased by nearly 50% among children aged 10 to 14 years, and by 21% for emergency department (ED) visits. Behavioral disorders experienced a shift in underlying patterns between 2006 and 2011: inpatient stays for alcohol-related disorders declined by 44%, but ED visits increased by 34% for substance-related disorders and by 71% for impulse control disorders. Inpatient visits for suicide, suicidal ideation, and self-injury increased by 104% for children ages 1 to 17 years, and by 151% for children ages 10 to 14 years during this period. A total of $11.6 billion was spent on hospital visits for mental health during this period. Medicaid covered half of the inpatient visits, but with 50% to 30% longer length of stays in 2006 and 2011, respectively, than private payers. Medicaid's overall share of the ED visits increased from 45% in 2006 to 53% in 2011.
Conclusions: These alarming trends highlight the renewed need for research on mental health care for children. This study also provides a baseline for evaluating the impact of the Affordable Care Act and the mental health parity legislation on mental health utilization and expenditures for children.
Keywords: children; health care utilization; mental health; national estimates; trends in hospitalization.
Published by Elsevier Inc.