Mental Health Conditions and Health Care Payments for Children with Chronic Medical Conditions

Acad Pediatr. 2019 Jan-Feb;19(1):44-50. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2018.10.001. Epub 2018 Oct 10.


Objective: To estimate additional payments associated with co-existing mental health or substance use disorders (MH/SUDs) among commercially insured children and youth with chronic medical conditions (CMCs) and to determine whether children's MH/SUDs have similar associations with parental health care payments.

Methods: Cross-sectional analysis of a national database of paid commercial insurance claims for 2012-2013. Participants were children and youth ages 0 to 26 years covered as dependents on parents' health insurance and categorized by the presence or absence of any of 11 chronic medical conditions and MH/SUDs. We determined the numbers of children and youth with CMCs and paid health care claims categorized as hospital, professional, and pharmacy services and as medical or behavioral. We compared paid claims for children and youth with CMCs with and without co-occurring MH/SUDs and for their parents.

Results: The sample included almost 6.6 million children and youth and 5.8 million parents. Compared to children without CMCs, children with CMCs had higher costs, even higher for children with CMCs who also had MH/SUDs. Children with CMCs and co-occurring MH/SUDs had 2.4 times the annual payments of those with chronic conditions alone, especially for medical expenses. Estimated additional annual payments associated with MH/SUDs in children with CMCs were $8.8 billion. Parents of children with CMCs and associated MH/SUDs had payments 59% higher than those for parents of children with CMCs alone.

Conclusions: MH/SUDs in children and youth with CMCs are associated with higher total health care payments for both patients and their parents, suggesting potential benefits from preventing or reducing the impact of MH/SUDs among children and youth with CMCs.

Keywords: parent health care payments; pediatric medical and mental health care payments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Health Expenditures / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / economics
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Reimbursement Mechanisms
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult