Health care expenditures among children with and those without spina bifida enrolled in Medicaid in North Carolina
National data on health care use among children with special needs are limited and do not address children with spina bifida (SB). One recent study examined health care costs during 2003 among privately insured individuals with SB. Our objective was to compare health care use and expenditures among publicly insured children with SB to children without a major birth defect and among children with SB with and without hydrocephalus. Data from the North Carolina Birth Defects Monitoring Program and Medicaid were linked to identify continuously enrolled children with SB (case children) and children without a major birth defect (control children) born from 1995 to 2002. Medicaid expenditures per child for medical, inpatient, outpatient, dental, well-child care, developmental/behavioral services, and home health for those aged 0 to 4 years old were calculated for case and control children and for case children with and without hydrocephalus. Of 373 case children who survived infancy, 205 (55%) were enrolled in Medicaid. Expenditures were assessed for 144 case and 5674 control children aged 0 to 4 years old continuously enrolled in Medicaid. During infancy, mean expenditure was $33,135 per child with SB and $3900 per unaffected child. The biggest relative expenditures were for developmental/behavioral services (82 times higher for case than control child [$1401 vs. $17]) and home health services (20 times higher [$821 vs. $41]). Average expenditure for an infant with SB and hydrocephalus was 2.6 times higher than an infant with SB without hydrocephalus ($40,502 vs. $15,699). Expenditure comparisons by SB subtype are important for targeting health care resources.