Expert: Health care bills for children with FASD are 9 times higher than other kids

No one knows exactly how many Alaskans have fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. The disability is tough and time-consuming to diagnose, and symptoms may take years to surface. What we do know is that no matter how many children, teens and young adults have FAS, researchers are finding time and again that the cost of preventing one person from being born with the disability is far less expensive than treating a lifetime of health and behavior troubles.

The Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Center for Excellence is publishing a series of Q&As on alcohol-related birth defects exploring these themes and others. One eye-popping statistic? This Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found medical bills for children with FASD were about nine times as high as bills for children without the disability in 2005, writes Center project director Callie Gass.

Bills for each child with FASD were nearly $16,800 a year, compared to $1,900 for unaffected kids. The study’s findings eclipsed previous research on health care costs for the disability.

More on FASD and Alaska:

“Pregnancy tests in bars and restaurants aim to empower women and eradicate FASD,” by Sen. Pete Kelly.

“Alaska should invest in effective means of treatment and prevention of FASD” by nurse practitioner Marilyn Pierce-Bulger.

And finally, did you know that the Alaska Legislature passed a law in 1990 that requires all bars to post 11-inch by 14-inch signs warning that drinking while pregnant can cause birth defects? Alaska is one of 19 states that require the posters. One Daily News letter writer proposes taking the warnings a step farther.

Originally published April 3, 2014 by Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage Daily News.