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Am J Psychiatry. 2003 Jul;160(7):1286-90.

Insurance expenditures on bipolar disorder: clinical and parity implications.

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  • 1Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA.



This study assessed treatment rates and expenditures for behavioral health care by employers and behavioral health care patients in a large national database of employer-sponsored health insurance claims.


Insurance claims from 1996 from approximately 1.66 million individuals were examined. Average annual charges per person and payments for behavioral health care were calculated along with patient out-of-pocket expenses and inpatient hospital admission rates. Behavioral health care expenditures for bipolar disorder were compared to expenditures for other behavioral health care diagnoses in these same insurance plans.


A total of 7.5% of all covered individuals filed a behavioral health care claim. Of those, 3.0% were identified as having bipolar disorder, but they accounted for 12.4% of total plan expenditures. Patients with bipolar disorder incurred annual out-of-pocket expenses of $568, more than double the $232 out-of-pocket expenses incurred by all claimants. The inpatient hospital admission rate for patients with bipolar disorder was also higher (39.1%) compared to 4.5% for all other behavioral health care claimants. Furthermore, annual insurance payments were higher for covered medical services for individuals with bipolar disorder than for patients with other behavioral health care diagnoses.


Bipolar disorder is the most expensive behavioral health care diagnosis, both for patients with bipolar disorder and for their insurance plans. For every behavioral health care dollar spent on outpatient care for patients with bipolar disorder, $1.80 is spent on inpatient care, suggesting that better prevention management could decrease the financial burden of bipolar disorder.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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