NewsCovering Louisiana


Blue Cross Blue Shield: La. has nation’s highest rate of ADHD diagnoses among kids

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of La.: State has nation’s highest rate of ADHD diagnoses among kids
Posted at 2:57 PM, Aug 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-15 15:57:25-04


BATON ROUGE, La. - Louisiana's children are experiencing a shocking impact from Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), according to a new study of medical claims by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA).

ADHD is a disorder that limits a person's ability to focus, hold attention or control impulsive behavior.

The report shows that Louisiana has the highest ADHD diagnosis rate in the nation among children ages 2-11 at 11%. The report, which covers 2010 to 2017, shows Louisiana also had the highest variation from the national average at 4.6, and the top two metropolitan areas (MSAs) for diagnosis rate, with Baton Rouge at 11.6 and New Orleans at 10.5 diagnoses per 100 members, respectively.

"As the medical community is understanding more about ADHD, it's leading to more young people being diagnosed with this condition," said Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Chief Medical Officer Dr. Vindell Washington.

"This gives us an opportunity to connect children with targeted interventions and services while they're still in elementary school, so they will be able to better manage their symptoms and be less affected by ADHD as they go through adolescence into adulthood," Washington said.

Nationally, almost 2.4 million commercially insured children were diagnosed with ADHD, climbing 31% from 2010 to 2017.

Part of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health of America® series, "The Impact of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder on the Health of America's Children []" found that about 40% of children with ADHD across the country were also diagnosed with at least one other behavioral health disorder.

In Louisiana, 6.9% of children are receiving only behavioral therapy to treat ADHD, while 61.7% are only being treated with ADHD medication. About 21% in Louisiana are being treated with both.

Nearly half of children with ADHD in the U.S. were treated only with medication in 2017, though the report shows this number is beginning to decline. According to experts, the best way to treat ADHD is through a combination of both medication and behavioral therapy.

Study results indicated there may be a focus on Southern states, with the following highlights:

  • Louisiana has the highest diagnosis rate at 11%, the highest variation from national average at 4.6 and the top two MSAs for diagnosis rates, with Baton Rouge at 11.6 and New Orleans at 10.5.
  • Louisiana also has the highest medication-only treatment rate of 61.7%.
  • Georgia at 8.3 per 100 members and South Carolina at 8.2 also have high diagnosis rates, as well as high medication-only treatment rates, with South Carolina at 61.5% and Georgia at 60%.

Additional national findings from the study are:

  • Diagnosis rates are higher in the South and lower in the West, with a nearly three-fold difference between the rates of the highest and lowest states.
  • All states saw an increase in diagnosis rates of ADHD in children from 2010 to 2017 except North Dakota, which decreased 9% from 6.3 to 5.7.
  • ADHD is most prevalent among middle school-aged children (11-13 years old), and boys are diagnosed about twice as often as girls.
  • ADHD accounts for 16% of the impact all health conditions have on Generation Z (0-19 years old).

The diagnosis rate in Baton Rouge was 11.6 per 100 in 2017, 5.2% higher than the national rate and also higher than New Orleans' rate of 10.5. New Orleans' rate represented a 4.1% variation from the national average. The percent change of diagnosis from 2010 to 2017 in Baton Rouge was 34%, in New Orleans, 49%, and the national rate, 31%.

"Through these findings, we're seeing a change in what was traditionally understood amongst the medical community, which is that ADHD diagnoses are actually more prevalent among middle school children, not elementary school," said Dr. Vincent Nelson, vice president, Medical Affairs for BCBSA. "The data also revealed higher diagnosis rates in the South, and that region of the U.S. has a larger portion of children treated with medication only. Knowing this information, we're focused on ways we can provide more access to therapists and behavioral health experts to change this trend."