Mental disorders are most costly medical expense for children
April 15, 2014
According to a just-released statistical brief from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, mental disorders were the most costly medical expenditure for those under 18 years of age during 2011, the most recent year for which statistics are available. More than 5.6 million children were treated for mental disorders at a mean expenditure of $2,465 each, for a total expense of $13.8 billion. In 2011, $117.6 billion was spent overall on the medical care and treatment of children.

The top five medical conditions that ranked highest in terms of spending included mental disorders, asthma ($11.9 billion), trauma-related disorders ($5.8 billion), acute bronchitis and upper respiratory infections ($3.3 billion), and otitis media ($3.2 billion). Although mental disorders affected the fewest number of children of the other top five medical conditions, they had the highest average expense per child.

In 2008, mental disorders ranked as the fifth most commonly treated condition; according to survey data, the expense per child has remained steady.

Nearly half the expenditures for mental disorders in children were paid by Medicaid.