Children’s health care spending on the riseNews added by Benefits Pro on March 3, 2014

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By Kathryn Mayer

Health spending on children increased an average of 5.5 percent each year between 2009 and 2012, as many more kids used prescription drugs and mental health services, according to a report out this week.

According to the Health Care Cost Institute, a nonpartisan research group, per capita spending on children reached $2,437 in 2012, a $363 increase from 2009.

The report is based on fee-for-service claims for 10.5 million children per year who were covered by employer-sponsored health insurance.

The increase is in part spurred by the patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which promotes wellness and services for children. For example, PPACA likely prompted nearly a 48 percent spike in meningitis vaccination rates among teens in 2011, and an additional 16.4 percent increase in 2012. PPACA covers those vaccines with no cost sharing under the law.

The report also cited a big growth in prescription use by children and a rise in the number of teens being admitted for mental health and substance use treatment.

The report reported a double-digit growth in the use of generic central nervous system drugs, those used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression. Though boys were more likely to be on those drugs, teen girls had a higher rate of prescription drug use, mostly the result of birth control pills.

Teen girls also led the use of mental health services.

“The trend of rising use of prescriptions among children is particularly notable,” says HCCI Executive Director David Newman. “We, and others, need to focus on the mental health needs of our children.”

HCCI also found that, as expected, parents spent more money on infants and toddlers. Average spending on babies reached $4,446 in 2012, with hospitalizations accounting for 40 percent of those out-of-pocket dollars. As far as gender, spending on younger boys outpaced girls by $276 per capita. That changed for girls 14 and older, when health care spending for girls outpaced boys’ spending.

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