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AHRQ announces new MEPS publications on the cost of health care

In 1996, about $554 billion in payments were made for health care services and supplies used by the U.S. population not in the military or living in institutions. The average cost per person who had medical expenses was about $2,400. However, half of these people had medical expenses of less than $559. The charts presented here show that only small proportions of the population had expenses for inpatient hospital care (6.8 percent) and home health services (2.4 percent), although these health services had the highest average annual expenses ($11,492 for inpatient hospitalization and $5,191 for home health care).

These estimates from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) are lower than those recently released by the Health Care Financing Administration's National Health Accounts (NHA). This is primarily because the MEPS Household Component is focused on the civilian noninstitutionalized population and does not collect data on people in the military or living in institutions such as nursing homes or prisons. It also omits costs for program administration and revenues not associated with patient care. When the surveys are adjusted for these and similar differences, the MEPS expenditure estimates are not substantially different from those contained in the NHA.

More information is presented in two MEPS Highlights publications that are available from AHRQ: Distribution of Health Care Expenses, 1996. MEPS Highlights No. 11 (AHRQ Publication No. 00-0024) and Per Capita Health Care Expenses, 1996. MEPS Highlights No. 12 (AHRQ Publication No. 00-0026). Reprints are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

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