To determine the percentage of children with mental health diagnoses and utilization and expenditures of mental health services among children in foster care compared with other children receiving Medicaid, including those with disabilities.
Analysis of Medicaid claim and eligibility records in southwestern Pennsylvania for fiscal year 1995.
A total of 39,500 children between ages 5 and 17 years continuously eligible for Medicaid in southwestern Pennsylvania were included in the analysis.
Main Outcome Measures
Percentage of children with mental health diagnoses and mental and general health care utilization and expenditures classified by participation in foster care and Medicaid eligibility.
Children in foster care were 3 to 10 times more likely to receive a mental health diagnosis, had 6.5 times more mental health claims, were 7.5 times more likely to be hospitalized for a mental health condition, and had mental health expenditures that were 11.5 times greater ($2082 vs $181) than children in the Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) program. Overall, utilization rates, expenditures, and prevalence of psychiatric conditions for children in foster care were comparable with those of children with disabilities.
Children in foster care are significantly more likely to suffer from mental health conditions and use more mental health and general health services than AFDC children. Service use and expenditures are comparable with those of disabled children, suggesting that reimbursement rates and care management for children in foster care need to be reexamined.