A huge market exists for pediatric home health in the United States, with families currently providing about 1.5 billion hours of care for their young loved ones each year. Replacing that care with a professional home health aide would total about $35.7 billion in 2015 dollars, according to newly released study findings.
While those numbers show the vast potential demand, they also show why affordability remains a significant obstacle to increasing the amount of professional care being provided for children in their homes. Families may struggle to pay the estimated $6,400 per year needed for a skilled caregiver, or $2,100 a year for an unskilled professional.
“Children with chronic health conditions require a significant amount of care, and hiring a home health aide can be prohibitively expensive for a family,” lead author John Romley, an economist at the University of Southern California Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, said in a press release.
Romley and his colleagues at USC, Boston Children’s Hospital, and Rand Corp. examined data from the 2009-2010 National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs. That involved telephone interviews with 40,242 parents and guardians of children with special needs.
About 5.6 million children receive at least 5.1 hours of medical care at home per week, the researchers determined.
Hiring professional care can be expensive, but families already are paying a steep cost while providing care themselves. Together, these families lose more than $17 billion in income each year, the researchers calculated. For each child with special needs, families providing care forego an estimated $3,200 in earnings each year.
Children receiving the most at-home care tend to be Hispanic, age 5 or younger, and in poor families with parents or guardians who did not graduate from high school. The families usually have had both public and private health insurance.
The Affordable Care Act did extend health care to some of these families, the researchers noted. A current round of data collection, running through 2017, should be able to show what effect the ACA policies have had.
There are a few policies that could help address the needs of these families, they stated. These include:
– Offering incentives to employers for providing flexible work schedules or shared-leave programs
– Paid family leave programs
– Increased respite care to give family caregivers a break
– Home visits by clinicians
Findings appear in the journal Pediatrics.
Written by Tim Mullaney