The high cost of bipolar disorder

The most expensive behavioural healthcare diagnosis, for sufferers and their insurers, is bipolar disorder, according to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry (160:1286-1290, July 2003).

For every behavioural healthcare dollar spent on outpatient care for those with this disorder, $1.80 is spent on inpatient care, say the researchers, adding that this suggests that better prevention management could decrease the financial burden of bipolar disorder.

The researchers examined insurance claims from 1996 from about 1.66 million people. The average annual charges per person and payments for behavioural healthcare were calculated along with patient’s out-of-pocket expenses and in-patient hospital admission rates.

Behavioural healthcare expenditures for bipolar disorder were compared to expenditures for other behavioural healthcare diagnoses in the same insurance plans. The researchers found that 7.5% of all covered individuals filed a behavioural healthcare claim. Of those, 3.0% were identified as having bipolar disorder, but they accounted for 12.4% of total plan expenditures. Patients with bipolar disorder incurred annual out-of-pocket expenses of $568, over double the $232 incurred by all claimants. The in-patient hospital admission rate for patients with bipolar disorder was also higher (39.1%) compared with 4.5% for all other behavioural healthcare claimants. Additionally, annual insurance payments were higher for covered medical services for individuals with bipolar disorder than for patients with other behavioural healthcare diagnoses.

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