Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a serious public health problem in the United States. Each year, TBIs substantially contribute to health care costs, which vary by severity. This is important to consider given the variability in recovery time by severity.
This study quantifies the annual incremental health care costs of nonfatal TBI in 2016 for the US population covered by a private health insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare health plan. This study uses MarketScan and defines severity with the abbreviated injury scale for the head and neck region. Nonfatal health care costs were compared by severity.
The estimated 2016 overall health care cost attributable to nonfatal TBI among MarketScan enrollees was $40.6 billion. Total estimated annual health care cost attributable to TBI for low severity TBIs during the first year postinjury were substantially higher than costs for middle and high severity TBIs among those with private health insurance and Medicaid.
This study presents economic burden estimates for TBI that underscore the importance of developing strategies to prevent TBIs, regardless of severity. Although middle and high severity TBIs were more costly at the individual level, low severity TBIs, and head injuries diagnosed as “head injury unspecified” resulted in higher total estimated annual health care costs attributable to TBI.