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Just 1% of Americans accounted for 22% of health care costs in 2009 – about $90,000 per person – according to a new report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. A USA Today story on the report says that U.S. residents spent a total of $1.26 trillion that year on health care.
While the finding spotlights how the health status of a small segment of the population can impact overall health care spending, it actually represented a reduced concentration from an earlier report. In 1996, the top 1% of the population accounted for 28% of health care spending.
Most of the top 1% of spenders tended to be white, non-Hispanic women in poor health; the elderly; and users of publicly funded health care. About one in five health care consumers remained in the top 1% for at least two consecutive years.
In the top 10% of health care spending in 2008 and 2009, 80% were white, 60% were women, and 40% were 65 and over. Only 3% in that bracket were ages 18 to 29, and just 2% were Asian.
The report also found that 5% of Americans accounted for 50% of health care costs, or about $36,000 each.