Is Having a Mental Health Disorder Associated with Spending More on other Medical Conditions?

Research Paper Title

Association of Mental Health Disorders With Health Care Spending in the Medicare Population.

Background

The degree to which the presence of mental health disorders is associated with additional medical spending on non-mental health conditions is largely unknown.

Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine the proportion and degree of total spending directly associated with mental health conditions vs spending on other non-mental health conditions.

Methods

This retrospective cohort study of 4 358 975 fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries in the US in 2015 compared spending and health care utilisation among Medicare patients with serious mental illness (SMI; defined as bipolar disease, schizophrenia or related psychotic disorders, and major depressive disorder), patients with other common mental health disorders (defined as anxiety disorders, personality disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder), and patients with no known mental health disorders. Data analysis was conducted from February to October 2019.

Exposure: Diagnosis of an SMI or other common mental health disorder.

Main outcomes and measures: Risk-adjusted, standardised spending and health care utilisation. Multi-variable linear regression models were used to adjust for patient characteristics, including demographic characteristics and other medical co-morbidities, using hospital referral region fixed effects.

Results

Of 4,358,975 Medicare beneficiaries, 987,379 (22.7%) had an SMI, 326,991 (7.5%) had another common mental health disorder, and 3,044,587 (69.8%) had no known mental illness.

Compared with patients with no known mental illness, patients with an SMI were younger (mean [SD] age, 72.3 [11.6] years vs 67.4 [15.7] years; P < .001) and more likely to have dual eligibility (633 274 [20.8%] vs 434 447 [44.0%]; P < .001).

Patients with an SMI incurred more mean (SE) spending on mental health services than those with other common mental health disorders or no known mental illness ($2024 [3.9] vs $343 [6.2] vs $189 [2.1], respectively; P < .001).

Patients with an SMI also had substantially higher mean (SE) spending on medical services for physical conditions than those with other common mental health disorders or no known mental illness ($17 651 [23.6] vs $15 253 [38.2] vs $12 883 [12.8], respectively; P < .001), reflecting $4768 (95% CI, $4713-$4823; 37% increase) more in costs for patients with an SMI and $2370 (95% CI, $2290-$2449; 18.4% increase) more in costs for patients with other common mental health disorders.

Among Medicare beneficiaries, $2,686,016,110 of $64,326,262,104 total Medicare spending (4.2%) went to mental health services and an additional $5,482,791,747 (8.5%) went to additional medical spending associated with mental illness, representing a total of 12.7% of spending associated with mental health disorders.

Conclusions

In this study, having a mental health disorder was associated with spending substantially more on other medical conditions.

These findings quantify the extent of additional spending in the Medicare fee-for-service population associated with a diagnosis of a mental health disorder.

Reference

Figueroa, J.F., Phelan, J., Orav, E.J., Patel, V. & Jha, A.K. (2020) Association of Mental Health Disorders With Health Care Spending in the Medicare Population. JAMA Network Open. 3(3):e201210. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.1210.

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