Understanding the Role of Behavioral Health Conditions in Health Spending Growth and Projecting Future Behavioral Health Spending


The rising prevalence of behavioral disorders-mental health problems along with substance abuse-has been a major contributor to rising health care spending in the United States. This rise has been accompanied by increasing rates of comorbid conditions. The concomitant roles played by behavioral disorders and chronic comorbid physical conditions in national spending growth, however, have not been well studied. In fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration noted this as a major limitation to its 2014 forecasts of behavioral health treatment spending. The Emory University team will pursue three aims: analyze trends in behavioral health conditions and other chronic comorbid conditions and their impact on the growth in health spending from 2000 to 2015, using regression analysis to isolate their effects; identify the sociodemographic and income groups most affected by comorbid behavioral health and chronic conditions and determine whether the groups' characteristics changed after the 2007-2009 economic recession; and forecast total spending for patients with a behavioral disorder, including spending related to their chronic diseases, over the next decade. The Emory team will use Medical Expenditure Panel Survey data for the period 2000 to 2015, coupled with National Health Interview Survey data, to provide richer data on comorbidities and co-occurring behavioral conditions. The study will include all adults and sources of insurance-private, Medicare, and Medicaid. Additional regression and sensitivity analyses will examine the policy, health, and macroeconomic forces affecting spending trends. By clarifying for researchers, policymakers, and health industry leaders the independent yet interactive effects of behavioral health and chronic conditions on health spending growth, this project will point to potential areas of reform in policy and health care delivery.

Grant Details

Grantee Organization:
Emory University
Principal Investigator:
Jason Hockenberry, Ph.D.
Award Amount:
Approval Date:
April 11, 2017

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