Federal immunization programs for children save as much as $10 in subsequent medical costs for every dollar in spending while the feeding program for low-income pregnant women, infants and children saves at least $3 in short-term hospital costs for every dollar in program costs, according to a report released yesterday.
Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) and senior Republican Dan R. Coats (Ind.) of the House Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families released the findings.
The report analyzed studies by academic researchers and government agencies of cost-benefit ratios of eight major federal health and education programs aimed at the poor. It concluded that, rather than being wasteful, they are cost-effective.
"These strands of the social safety net -- from the Head Start program to prenatal care to education for handicapped children -- are working as intended," Coats said in a statement.
Miller said, "If we spent an additional $55 million to immunize an additional 10 percent of preschool children against polio, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, we could save a half a billion dollars in later health costs."
He added that another $250 million spent on the Women Infant Children (WIC) feeding program "could save as much as three quarters of a billion dollars in immediate hospitalization costs."
The report's major conclusions include:
*The government's Childhood Immunization Program has produced "dramatic declines" in various diseases, such as a 95 percent drop in the incidence of mumps from 1970-82. In general, the report said, "for every dollar spent on the Childhood Immunization Program, the government saves $10 in medical costs."
*The WIC program, providing special foods to 3 million of the more than 9 million children and pregnant women meeting eligibility standards, saves $3 in short-term hospital costs for every dollar spent by reducing the incidence of low birth weight and other problems.
*Prenatal health programs are estimated to save $3.38 for each dollar spent by reducing the incidence of low birth weight, which can lead to hospitalization.
*Special Medicaid programs, including early health screening for children and prenatal services, save $2 in the first year of the infant's life for each dollar spent.
*Preschool programs, such as Head Start, can save as much as $4.75 for each dollar spent, by reducing later need for special education and welfare and by improving work productivity.
*It costs only $500 a year to provide compensatory education under Title I to educationally disadvantaged children, while repeating a grade costs more than $3,000.
*For every dollar invested in quality preschool education for handicapped children, subsequent public special-education costs are reduced $3.
*The Job Corps, while costly, produces about $7,400 per participant in 1977 dollars in increased earnings and subsequently reduced welfare outlays, compared with costs of $5,000.