The impact of childhood language difficulties on healthcare costs from 4 to 13 years: Australian longitudinal study

Publication Type:
Journal Article
International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 2017, 19 (4), pp. 381 - 391
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© 2016 The Speech Pathology Association of Australia Limited Published by Taylor & Francis. Purpose: This study investigated the relationship between children’s language difficulties and health care costs using the 2004–2012 Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). Method: Language difficulties were defined as scores ≤1.25SD below the standardised mean on measures of directly assessed receptive vocabulary (4–9 years) and teacher-reported language and literacy (10–13 years). Participant data were individually linked to administrative data, which were sourced from Australia’s universal subsidised healthcare scheme (Medicare). Result: It was found that healthcare costs over each 2-year age band were higher for children with language difficulties than without in the 4–5-year-age bracket (mean difference = AU$357, 95%CI $59, $659), in the 6–7-year-age bracket (mean difference = AU$602, 95%CI $136, $1068) and in the 10–11-year-age bracket (mean difference = AU$504, 95%CI $153, $854). Out-of-pocket costs, that is the portion of healthcare costs paid for by the family, were also higher for children with than without language difficulties in the 4–5-year-age bracket (mean difference = AU$123, 95%CI $46, $199), in the 6–7-year-age bracket (mean difference = AU$176, 95%CI $74,278) and in the 10–11-year-age bracket (mean difference = AU$79, 95%CI $6, $152). Medical services accounted for 97% of total healthcare cost differences. Conclusion: Overall the findings from this study suggest that language difficulties are associated with increased healthcare costs at key developmental milestones, notably early childhood and as a child approaches the teenage years.
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