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Report: 5 Percent of People Account for Half of U.S. Health Care Spending Report: 5 Percent of People Account for Half of U.S. Health Care Spend...

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Report: 5 Percent of People Account for Half of U.S. Health Care Spending


(Bob Riha, Jr./Childrens Hospital Los Angeles via Getty Images)

About 5 percent of the population is responsible for almost half of all health care spending in the United States and for rising premium rates, according to a new report from the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation.

U.S. health care spending has sharply increased over the past few years. Between 2005 and 2009, national health care spending rose by 23 percent from $2 billion to $2.5 billion, according to the NIHCM Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on health care. A foundation report that reviewed the 2008 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey found health care spending was concentrated among a small group of high-cost patients.


The report stated about half of the U.S. population accounted for only 3.1 percent of all expenditures. But 10 percent of the population hogged 63.6 percent of all health spending, the survey found.  The top 5  percent of the population accounted for 47.5 percent of all spending, and the top 1 percent accounted for 20.2 percent.

While the average person incurred about $233 in costs in 2008 for health care services, those in the top half of spending cost insurers, the government, or themselves $7,317. The top 1 percent cost $76,476.

Adults 55 and over made up a larger proportion of the high-spending group, while those in the lower spending group tended to be younger. The report also found that people with at least one chronic health condition were two to four times more likely to have spending in the top 5 percent group.


The likelihood increased as the number of chronic conditions rose. Nearly half of people in the top 5 percent of health care spending had high blood pressure; a third had high cholesterol; and a quarter had diabetes.

As health care spending rose, so did private health insurance premiums. During the 2005 to 2009 stretch in which health care spending rose, premiums for private health insurance increased by nearly 15 percent. According to the report, higher spending for doctors and hospitals is responsible for the growth in private premiums.

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