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Care costs for middle-aged Americans have doubled in the past decade

Research Activities, December 2009, No. 352

The $370 billion in health care expenses for Americans aged 45 to 64 in 2006 were about double the inflation-adjusted total for 1996 ($187 billion), according to the latest data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The Agency examined costs for all Americans aged 45 to 64 other than those residing in nursing homes and other institutions.

AHRQ also found that during this period:

  • The proportion of people aged 45 to 64 who incurred medical expenses did not change (about 89 percent), but average annual health care expenses for those with expenses increased from $3,849 (after adjusting for inflation) to $5,455.
  • Prescribed medicines were a substantially higher proportion of total expenses in 2006 compared with 1996 (25 percent and 15 percent, respectively).
  • The proportion of total expenses for hospital inpatient care decreased (from 36 percent to 26 percent).
  • The average expense per service rendered grew significantly (in 2006 dollars):
    • Physician office visit, $128 to $207.
    • Inpatient hospital day, $3,005 to $3,491.
    • Emergency room visit, $563 to $947.
    • Dental visit, $195 to $265.
    • Prescription medicines, $103 to $199.

These findings were based on analysis of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), a detailed source of information on the health services used by Americans, the frequency of use, cost of services, and how they are paid. For more information, go to Trends in Health Care Expenditures for Adults Ages 45-64: 2006 versus 1996 at http://meps.ahrq.gov/mepsweb/data_files/publications/st255/stat255.shtml.

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Current as of December 2009
Internet Citation: Care costs for middle-aged Americans have doubled in the past decade: Research Activities, December 2009, No. 352. December 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/research-activities/dec09/1209RA30.html