Insurers spend more on kids' care despite down enrollment

Insurers are spending more for children's healthcare, despite a decline in commercially insured children, primarily because of higher prices, according to a report from the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI).

The report--which used claims data from Aetna, Humana and UnitedHealth to track changes in spending, prices and services for children with private employer-sponsored insurance--found that insurers and consumers spent almost $88 billion in 2010 on children's healthcare, up almost 12 percent from 2007. That increase comes amid a 5.7 percent drop in the number of children covered by employer-sponsored insurance, which was down from almost 44 million in 2007 to 41.4 million in 2010, Medical News Today reported.

"Children tend to use less expensive healthcare so a bump in children's healthcare spending is troubling because it could indicate that kids are getting sicker or receiving unnecessary tests or excess procedures," HCCI governing board chairman Martin Gaynor said in a statement.

From 2007 to 2010, the costs for average outpatient and emergency room visits both rose almost 35 percent. Meanwhile, children's use of mental health and substance abuse services increased 24 percent; antidepressants prescriptions increased 10 percent, and cardiovascular drugs and hormones both rose more than 20 percent, reported Kaiser Health News.

An earlier HCCI report reached similar conclusions about all patients, finding that costs rose 3.3 percent in 2010 while enrollment in employer-sponsored plans declined.

To learn more:
- read the HCCI statement and report
- see the Medical News Today article
- check out the Kaiser Health News article