Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Factors Affecting Costs in Medicaid Populations With Behavioral Health Disorders


Background: Persons with behavioral disorders incur higher healthcare costs. Although they utilize behavioral health (BH) services others do not, they also have higher utilization of medical services Objectives: To determine the degree to which higher costs for persons with BH disorders are attributable to utilization of BH services, multiple chronic medical conditions (CMCs) or other issues specific to populations with BH disorders. Research Design: Data base consisted of claims for 63,141 Medicaid beneficiaries, 49% of whom had one of 5 categories of BH disorder. Generalized linear models were used to identify relative impact of demographics, BH status, multiple CMCs and primary care access on total, behavioral, nonbehavioral, and medical/surgical costs. Results: Number of CMCs was associated with significant increases in all cost categories, including behavioral costs. Presence of any BH disorder significantly influenced these same costs, including those not associated with BH care. Effect size in each cost category varied by BH group. Conclusions: BH status has a large impact on all healthcare costs, including costs of medical and other non-BH services. The number of CMCs affects BH costs independent of BH disorder. Results suggest that costs might be reduced through better integration of behavioral and medical health services. [Journal abstract]

Suggested Citation:

Freeman, E., McGuire, C. A., Thomas, J. W., & Thayer, D. A. (2014). Factors affecting costs in medicaid populations with behavioral health disorders. Medical Care, 52, S60-S66 doi:10.1097/MLR.0000000000000075.

Publication Type: 
Journal Article
Publish Date: 
March 4, 2014