MONDAY, June 3 (HealthDay News) -- The belt tightening triggered by the recent recession appears to have forced families to make tough choices about care for children with chronic physical or emotion problems, a new study suggests.
The study, which was published in the June issue of the journal Health Affairs, used a large government database to track out-of-pocket costs for families with private health insurance carriers from 2001 to 2009.
Researchers were particularly interested in spending for children with special health care needs.
"Those are children who require health or related services beyond those required by children generally," said lead researcher Pinar Karaca-Mandic, an assistant professor of public health at the University of Minnesota. "A child with asthma would fit in this category, for example. A child with depression, ADHD or a physical limitation would also fit this definition."
Nearly one in five children in the United States meets the criteria for having a special health care need. Parents pay about twice as much to care for children with special needs as they do caring for children without ongoing problems. Their own health care costs usually go up, too, as they deal with the added stress of caregiving.
In the years leading up to the recession, out-of-pocket expenses climbed steadily for all family members -- children and adults alike. But in 2007, the trend lines changed.
For children who were generally healthy, medical expenses jumped as insurance plans became less generous and families bore a greater share of the total tab for medical care. Average annual out-of-pocket costs rose from about $280 in 2007 to $310 in 2009.
But for children with special needs and adults, out-of-pocket costs actually dropped. Adults cut spending on their own care by an average of $40 if they had children without chronic conditions. In fami
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