The national cost of asthma among school-aged children in the United States

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Background Recent research has quantified the national health care resource use (HCRU) and health care expenditure (HCE) burden associated with adult asthma; however, estimates specific to school-aged children are more than 2 decades old. Objective To estimate the national HCRU and HCEs attributable to asthma among school-aged children in the United States. Methods This was a cross-sectional retrospective analysis of school-aged children (aged 6–17 years) in the nationally representative 2007–2013 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. All-cause HCRU and HCEs of school-aged children with asthma were compared with school-aged children without asthma, controlling for sociodemographics and comorbidities. HCRU encounters included emergency department (ED) and outpatient visits, hospitalizations, and prescriptions. Expenditures included total, medical, ED, inpatient, outpatient, and pharmacy. Negative binomial regression analyses were used for HCRU and Heckman selection with logarithmic transformation, and smearing retransformation was used for HCEs. Results There were 44,320 school-aged children of whom 5,890 had asthma. Children with asthma incurred a higher rate of all-cause annual ED visits (incidence rate ratio [IRR], 1.5; P <.001), hospitalizations (IRR, 1.4; P <.05), outpatient visits (IRR, 1.4; P <.001), and prescription drugs (IRR, 3.3; P <.001) compared with school-aged children without asthma. They incurred US$847 (2015 dollars) more annually in all-cause expenditures (P <.001). Private insurance and Medicaid paid the largest share of expenditures. Pharmacy and outpatient costs represented the largest proportion of total expenditures. On the basis of the nationally representative Medical Expenditure Panel Survey sample weights from 2013, the total annual HCEs attributable to asthma for school-aged children in the United States was US$5.92 billion (2015 dollars). Conclusion Childhood asthma continues to represent a prevalent and significant clinical and economic burden in the United States. More aggressive treatment and asthma management programs are needed to address this national financial and resource burden.

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