Costs for Children Vary Widely

According to the researchers, parents in states with higher average incomes face smaller burdens – meaning in contrast, more vulnerable families in poorer states often pay more of their own money to cover their disabled children's health-care costs.

The study found families in Georgia fared the worst, paying an annual average of 972 US-Dollars out-of-pocket to care for their disabled children. That's nearly 200 US-Dollars more, on average, than families spend nationwide on children with special health-care needs. Families in Massachusetts felt the least financial pinch with 562 US-Dollars yearly.

Of the nearly 39,000 families included in the research, about 91 percent reported spending some money out-of-pocket on special health-care needs for their children. These expenses ranged from medications to home therapy. The study looked at families with similar household demographics and involved children with a range of disabilities, including mental retardation, asthma and spina bifida.

The report, which was based on 2002 data from the National Center for Health Statistics, also looked closely at gross family income to highlight disparities among the states. In North Carolina, for example, a family with a gross income of 50,000 US-Dollars spent almost 1,100 US-Dollars annually to care for its disabled children. A family in Louisiana earning the same amount paid about 1,600 US-Dollars annually.

"What we found was not only was the financial burden higher in some states, it was higher for poor families," Susan Parish, co-author of the study, said. "We need to understand how state policies are affecting children with disabilities."; Source: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill