Rise in U.S. disability health care spending, but preventive care may reduce expenditure

December 30, 2015

The findings suggest that disability-associated health care spending may be reduced by encouraging preventive care service use such as smoking cessation and mammograms, by health improvement interventions such as nutritional improvement programs and, most importantly, by improving access to acute medical care for people with disabilities. Health promotion and disease management programs that help people with disabilities improve diet and physical activity and manage chronic conditions can help maintain functional independence and may help reduce health care spending by decreasing hospitalization and premature nursing home entry.

"We're finding that people with disabilities aren't getting the same level of preventive care every day as people without disabilities," says Dr. Brian Armour, lead health scientist at CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. "It's important to realize that people with disabilities can be healthy if barriers to care are reduced."

The study found that the costs per person with a disability were highest in the Northeast, several southeastern states, Alaska and Hawaii, where the costs exceeded $13,000 per person per year in most of those states. The lowest costs per person with a disability, less than $10,000 per person per year, were found in the West or Mountain regions (see map).

The study used data from the 2002-2003 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and state-level data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

Source: RTI International