Disparities in Medicaid Spending on Children in Welfare System

A new study from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis examines racial and ethnic differences in Medicaid expenditures for children in the welfare system who use psychotropic drugs — medication for conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, that affect a child’s mental state.

The study, “Racial/Ethnic Differences in Medicaid Expenditures on Psychotropic Medications Among Maltreated Children,” was published online in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect. The study examined 4,445 child participants in the National Survey of Child & Adolescent Well-Being linked to their Medicaid records in 36 states. It found expenditure differences were especially pronounced among African-American children. Spending on African-American children was between $300 and $600 lower than spending on white children.

But the takeaway, the author said, is that expanding coverage through Medicaid alone may be insufficient to assure high-quality mental health care for children, especially children of color. “We should be focusing on why these expenditure disparities exist, and how we can eliminate them,” he said. “We know this is not because African-American children are less sick than their white counterparts, and we know this is not entirely because of where they live. So we need to figure out why we’re spending less money on these kids of color, and whether that is appropriate or not.

Population of focus: Children in the welfare system

Links to resource:

Date: 2014

Journal: Child Abuse & Neglect