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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2010 Nov;49(11):1165-71. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2010.08.003.

Health care expenditures for children with autism spectrum disorders in Medicaid.

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  • 1Penn State College of Medicine, Public Health Sciences, A210, 600 Centerview Drive, PO Box 855, Hershey, PA 17033-0855, USA. lwang@hes.hmc.psu.edu



To study trends in health care expenditures associated with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in state Medicaid programs.


Using Medicaid data from 42 states from 2000 to 2003, patients aged 17 years and under who were continuously enrolled in fee-for-service Medicaid were studied. Patients with claims related to autistic disorder (autism) were identified, as were patients with claims for any ASD other than autism. Total expenditures per treated patient consisted of Medicaid reimbursements from inpatient, outpatient, and long-term care and prescription drugs. Inflation-adjusted expenditures were compared over time and with expenditures associated with other mental health disorders.


A total of 2,184,677 children were diagnosed with some type of mental disorder during the study period. Of these children, 69,542 had an ASD, with 49,921 having autism and the rest having another ASD. Mean total health care expenditures per child with ASD were $22,079 in 2000 (in 2003 US dollars), and rose by 3.1% to $22,772 in 2003. The treated prevalence of autism per 10,000 covered lives rose by 32.2% from 40.6 to 53.6, the highest rate of increase among all mental disorders. Total health care expenditures for ASDs per 10,000 covered lives grew by 32.8% from $1,270,435 in 2000 (in 2003 dollars) to $1,686,938 in 2003.


Medicaid-reimbursed health care expenditures for ASD were quite substantial. Although the per patient expenditures grew slightly over time, the large increase in treated prevalence caused a considerable rise in total ASD-associated health care expenditures.

Copyright © 2010 American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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