Objective: The study examined trends in use of inpatient and outpatient mental health services, including pharmacotherapy, among privately insured children and adolescents from 1997 to 2000. Method: Data from a national database of more than 1.7 million privately insured individuals were used in an analysis of inpatient, outpatient, and pharmacy claims of users of mental health care age 17 years and younger (approximately 20,000 patients per year). Annual utilization rates and adjusted costs for services and dispensed psychotropic medications were calculated. Results from 1997 and 2000 were compared across diagnostic and age categories. Results: The proportion of youths with an inpatient psychiatric admission decreased by 23.7% from 1997 to 2000, and annual inpatient and outpatient costs decreased by $1,216 (18.4%) and $157 (14.4%), respectively. Decreases were driven by a reduction in inpatient days (20.0%) and by a combination of a reduction in outpatient visits (11.3%) and declining payments per outpatient visit (6.1%). Payment trends across diagnoses varied considerably, with the largest reductions seen in treatment of depression, hyperactivity, adjustment disorders, and anxiety disorders. Over the same period, the proportion of youths receiving medication increased by 4.9%, and mean annual medication-related costs per outpatient increased by $41 (12.1%). Conclusions: Reductions in inpatient and outpatient mental health service intensity and reimbursements documented in previous research continued through the late 1990s. Declines were accompanied by concurrent increases in the use of and costs associated with psychotropic medications, particularly for youths with mood and anxiety disorders. These results document a shift toward medication-based outpatient treatment modalities.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Psychiatry and Mental health