Background: Research on the impact of depression treatment on expenditures is nascent and shows results that vary from negative associations with healthcare expenditures to increased expenditures. However many of these studies did not include psychotherapy as part of the depression treatment. None of these studies included "no treatment" as a comparison group. In addition, no study has included a broad group of chronic physical conditions in studying depression treatment expenditures. Objective. We determined the association between depression treatment and short-term healthcare expenditures using a nationally representative sample of Medicare beneficiaries with chronic physical conditions and depression. Method. In this retrospective cohort study, we examined the association between depression treatment in the baseline year and healthcare expenditures in the following year using data from 2000 through 2005 of the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS), a nationally representative survey of Medicare beneficiaries. Using the rotating panel design of MCBS, we derived five two-year cohorts: 2000-2001, 2001-2002, 2002-2003, 2003-2004, and 2004-2005. The study sample included 1,055 elderly Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 or over. We compared healthcare expenditures of no depression treatment group with depression treatment groups using t-tests. Linear regressions of log-transformed dollars were used to assess the relationship between depression treatment and healthcare expenditures after controlling for demographic, socio-economic, health status, lifestyle risk factors, year of observation and baseline expenditures. Results: Compared to no depression treatment ($16,795), the average total expenditures were higher for those who used antidepressants only ($17,425) and those who used psychotherapy with or without antidepressants ($19,733). After controlling for the independent variables, antidepressant use and psychotherapy with or without antidepressants were associated with 20.2% (95% CI: 14.1-26.7%) and 29.4% (95% CI: 18.8-41.0%) increase in total expenditures, respectively. We observed that depression treatment was positively associated with inpatient, medical provider and prescription drug expenditures. Conclusion: Among the elderly Medicare beneficiaries with chronic physical conditions, depression treatment was associated with greater short-term healthcare expenditures. Future research needs to replicate these findings and also examine whether depression treatment reduces expenditures over a longer period of time.
- Chronic physical conditions