Are Families With Autism Paying a Price?

Autism-related healthcare costs may be higher than other childhood problems

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Overall healthcare costs for children with autism may be higher than for children with other health conditions, like diabetes or asthma.

A recent study looked at research on healthcare use and costs by families of children with autism.

They found that children with autism used more heathcare services, including emergency and non-emergency care.  They also had higher healthcare costs and less access to care.

"Talk to your child’s pediatrician about services in your area."

Megan Tregnago with Nancy Cheak-Zamora, PhD, at the University of Missouri looked at 13 published studies to examine the cost of health care, type of health care used, and how often health care was used.

They looked for differences in families of children with autism compared to other families, including those with children who had other health problems like asthma.

They found that families of children with autism used three to six times more healthcare services compared to other childhood health conditions. Families of children with autism also had higher healthcare costs and reduced access to care.

Dr. Cheak-Zamora said in a recent press release, “Children's insurance companies paid more for services, and parents also paid more, with their out-of-pocket costs often exceeding a thousand dollars per year." 

The authors concluded that these findings have implications for insurance policy and that future research should look for ways to address the extra healthcare burden that autism presents. 

dailyRx spoke with psychiatrist Glen Elliott, MD, PhD, about the findings of this recent study. He said there has been a history of lack of insurance coverage for autism treatments, which is slowly changing.

He added, “Still, many of the services they need are not typically covered by medical insurance, e.g., speech and language, occupational therapy and behavioral therapy.“ This leads to higher out-of-pocket costs for parents.

Dr. Cheak-Zamora’s study was limited in that it could not determine the causes of the increased use of health care and increased healthcare costs because it was looking at previously published studies.

The report was published in the July-September issue of Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders.  Conflicts of interest were not reported by study authors.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 27, 2012
Last Updated:
December 4, 2012