A new University of Minnesota study shows parents spent less on out-of-pocket medical expenses during the recession, and that hit children with special needs the hardest.
The decline in out-of-pocket spending did not affect all families the same way, according Pinar Karaca-Mandic, an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health, and lead author of the study.
Karaca-Mandic said the aim of the study was to explore who was most affected during tough economic times.
"We know that spending is slowing down," she said. "But was spending differentially affected for children and their parents, and among the children, were children with special health care needs affected as children without such needs?"
In the study published Monday in the journal Health Affairs, the researchers said out-of-pocket spending for children with special needs declined during the recession, but that wasn't the case for children without such needs.
Using survey data from families with private health insurance, the researchers also looked at spending on co-pays and co-insurance for adults.
"For all these adults in the families with children, we found a significant decline in spending," said Karaca-Mandic. She said it could be because parents sacrificed their own medical care for their children during the recession.
The researchers recommend beefing up coverage for families with children to so that children's and parents' health care doesn't suffer during times of economic hardship.