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Study: ID Families with Special Needs Pay Big Out-of-Pocket

July 14, 2008

Boise, ID – A child’s disability can disable the family budget a lot or a little, depending on where you live. In a study published this week in the journal "Pediatrics," researchers compared extra out-of-pocket, health-related expenses for special-needs children across the country. They found that Idahoans pay some of the highest expenses in the nation.

The study's lead researcher, Paul Shattuck at Washington University, St. Louis, blames some of the differences on varying costs of therapy, rehabilitation and specialized medical care. But he points to the current health insurance system as the biggest reason families with the same illnesses, educational background and salaries pay different amounts for care—-differences that can amount to hundreds of dollars a month.

"We have sort of a free-for-all, where the nature and regulation and quality of health insurance varies from state to state."

Shattuck says Idaho families pay $845 in what he calls "additional" out-of-pocket health costs per child per year. Massachusetts families pay $285 less, and the national average is $70 less. He says he's doing more research to document how having a family member with a disability depletes family assets, and how the state and federal government could help families keep their finances intact.

Although Shattuck is focusing now on the expenses of children with disabilities, he says health care payment discrepancies could pertain to almost everyone.

"If you take the life-course perspective, just about all of us will either care for a family member who has a chronic health condition, or we will experience a chronic health condition ourselves at some point in our lives."

The full report is available at www.pediatrics.aappublications.org.

Deborah Smith/Steve Powers, Public News Service - ID