Oral clefts are among the most common birth defects affecting thousands of newborns each year, but little is known about their potential long-term consequences. In this paper, we explore the impact of oral clefts on health care utilization over most of the lifespan. To account for time-invariant unobservable parental characteristics, we compare affected individuals with their own unaffected siblings. The analysis is based on unique data comprising the entire cohort of individuals born with oral clefts in Denmark tracked until adulthood in administrative register data. We find that children with oral clefts use more health services than their unaffected siblings. Additional results show that the effects are driven primarily by congenital malformation-related hospitalizations and intake of anti-infectives. Although the absolute differences in most health care utilization diminish over time, affected individuals have slightly higher utilization of some health care services in adulthood (particularly for diseases of the nervous and respiratory system). These results have important implications for affected individuals, their families, and their health professionals.
European Journal of Health Economics, 2015, Vol 16, Issue 6, p. 603-612
Birth defects; Oral clefts; Cleft lip; Cleft palate; Health care utilization; Sibling comparison; Sibling fixed effects