Cleft Palate Repair Costs the Same for Internationally Adopted Children

Posted on August 23, 2016

Since 2009, United States residents have adopted more children from China than any other country. Since China has a high prevalence of cleft lip and palate, some of these children require extra medical care early in their lives. Many prospective families are fearful of the treatment costs needed by a child affected by cleft lip and palate. However, recent research suggests that the costs are not nearly as high as previously thought.

A study conducted between 2010 and 2013 and published in The Cleft Palate–Craniofacial Journal reviewed the records of 138 patients from the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania who underwent first-time cleft palate repair. For the purposes of the study, 118 US-born children were surveyed against 20 international adoptees, with payments to surgeons, anesthesiologists, and the hospital compared between the two groups.

When analyzing the breakdown of payments made by parents of children with cleft palates, they made a few surprising finds. Twenty-six percent of US-born children were covered by Medicaid insurance, but none of the adoptees were eligible. This resulted in the average adoptees’ payments being much higher as compared to the average payments for US-born patients. However, the payment to anesthesiologists and the hospital were actually lower for international adoptees. As a result, the total payment for treatment was relatively similar for both groups.

Overall, the authors of the study concluded that families considering adoption of a child with cleft palate should not be concerned with incurring excessive costs for the child’s repair surgery. As international adoptions and wait times have increased dramatically since the mid-1990s, considering a child with a birth defect could expedite the process of family placement and lead to more children in need finding a home.

Full text of the article, “Economic Analysis of Cleft Palate Repair in International Adoptees,” The Cleft Palate–Craniofacial Journal, Vol. 53, No. 5, 2016, are available at

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