The Cost of Autism Care Could Reach One Quarter of U.S. National Debt

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Dr. Tim Houchin, M.D. of 360 Mental Health Services sheds light on a recently published article that examines the financial cost of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Dr. Houchin also noted that the financial burden of ASD might pale in comparison to the psychosocial burden on families affected by the disorder.

New study examines cost of ASD

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Running the numbers ... paints a very bleak economic picture for the U.S. healthcare system.

The CDC now estimates that Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, afflicts 1 in 68 U.S. children. The organization Autism Speaks estimates that 2 million Americans currently live with ASD and the numbers are on the rise.

An article published on June 9, 2014 in the Pediatric Journal of the American Medical Association is one of the first medical studies to address the lifetime cost of caring for individuals with ASD. The study breaks down the cost by the severity of the disorder. For example, the study reports that the cost to care for each ASD-afflicted person is $1.4 million without intellectual disabilities and nearly double that figure for each person with intellectual disabilities.

If the average cost of lifetime care for ASD individuals is $2 million, then:

2 million Americans with ASD x $2 million to care for them = $4 trillion

“Running the numbers,” said Dr. Tim Houchin, M.D., “paints a very bleak economic picture for the U.S. healthcare system.”

To be sure, the U.S. national debt at the end of 2013 was $17 trillion, or roughly just 4 times the projected cost of caring for Americans currently diagnosed with ASD. Stated another way, the cost of ASD care could reach as high as one quarter of the current U.S. national debt.

Dr. Houchin was quick to point out that the figures the CDC puts out concerning ASD have risen dramatically over the years. “Autism Speaks [on its website] clearly highlights rapidly rising government figures on ASD rates.”

In fact, the CDC-reported increase in the rate of ASD is nothing short of extreme, at least according to this article accessible on the Autism Speaks website. The article states that as late as the 1990s ASD was thought to afflict just 4 in 10,000 children, a far cry from the CDC’s current estimate of 1 in 68.

Dr. Houchin concluded his analysis of this innovative research into the cost of ASD by stating, “I believe that whatever the actual financial cost of [Autism], it pales in comparison to the psychosocial cost to both patients and their families. We simply must find better ways to help them.”

About Dr. Tim:
Dr. Tim Houchin is one of approximately 200 physicians in the United States to be triple board certified in psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry & forensic psychiatry. In addition to serving as an expert witness to various courts Dr. Tim is founder and president of 360 Mental Health Services, a comprehensive mental health diagnostic and treatment center based in Lexington, Kentucky.

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Timothy M. Houchin, M.D.
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