Increased Health Care Utilization and Costs Among Veterans With a Positive Screen for Military Sexual Trauma

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Abstract

Background:

The effects of sexual trauma on long-term health care utilization and costs are not well understood due to infrequent documentation of sexual trauma history in health care systems. The Veteran’s Health Administration provides a unique opportunity to address this constraint as sexual trauma is actively screened for as part of routine care.

Methods:

We used a retrospective cohort design to analyze Veteran’s Health Administration mental health and medical service utilization and costs as a function of a positive screen for exposure to military sexual trauma (MST) among Veterans of recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. We computed adjusted 5-year estimates of overall utilization and costs, and utilization and costs determined not to be related to MST.

Results:

The cohort included 426,223 men and 59,611 women. A positive MST screen was associated with 50% higher health care utilization and costs relative to a negative screen. Overall, a positive relative to negative MST screen was associated with a 5-year incremental difference of 34.6 encounters and $10,734 among women, and 33.5 encounters and $11,484 among men. After accounting for MST-related treatment, positive MST screen was associated with 11.9 encounters and $4803 among women, and 19.5 encounters and $8001 among men.

Conclusions:

Results demonstrate significant and consistent differences in health care utilization and costs between Veterans with a positive relative to negative MST screen. Even after accounting for MST-related care, a positive screen was associated with significantly higher utilization and costs. MST-related needs may be more readily recognized in women relative to men.

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