U.S. Health Care Expenditure Still Unevenly Distributed

In 2008 and 2009, 1 percent of population account for ~20 percent of spending

FRIDAY, Jan. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Health care expenditure in the United States is still unevenly distributed, with 1 percent of the population accounting for approximately 20 percent of expenditure in 2008 and 2009, according to a January statistical brief published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Steven B. Cohen, Ph.D., and William Yu, from the AHRQ in Rockville, Md., reviewed data from the household component of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey for 2008 and 2009 to estimate health care expenditures.

The investigators found that, in 2008 and 2009, 1 percent of the population accounted for 20.2 and 21.8 percent of total health care expenditures, respectively. For individuals younger than 65 years, 15.5 percent were uninsured for all of 2009, including 25.9 percent of spenders in the bottom half for both 2008 and 2009 and 3.6 percent of those in the top decile of spenders in both 2008 and 2009. Those in the top decile of health care spenders were more likely to be in poor or fair health, elderly, female, non-Hispanic white, and to have public-only coverage, compared with the general population. Those who remained in the bottom half of spenders were more likely to have excellent health status and be children and young adults, male, Hispanic, and uninsured.

"Studies that examine the persistence of high levels of expenditures over time are essential to help discern the factors most likely to drive health care spending and the characteristics of the individuals who incur them," the authors write.

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