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Prescription Drug Expenses Increase for American Adults Age 18-44

AHRQ News and Numbers, December 09, 2009

AHRQ News and Numbers provides statistical highlights on the use and cost of health services and health insurance in the United States.

In 2006 the average cost for a prescription drug purchase for Americans age 18 to 44 was double the inflation-adjusted average for 1996, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Over the 10 years, the average cost per prescription purchased increased from $79 to $161, in 2006 dollars. Prescription medications also accounted for a notably larger share of all health care expenses for this age group in 2006 (18 percent vs. 10 percent in 1996), even though the proportion who purchased prescription drugs dropped over the same period (from 60 to 54 percent).

For Americans age 18 to 44, the agency's analysis also found that:

  • Health care expenses totaled $231 billion in 2006 or about $40 billion more than in 1996 after accounting for inflation.
  • A smaller proportion incurred health care expenses in 2006 than in 1996 (77 percent vs. 80.5 percent, respectively), but the average per person expense for people who had health expenses was significantly higher in 2006 compared with 1996 ($2,703 vs. $2,177 in 2006 dollars, respectively).
  • Average expenses per visit increased significantly for some types of visits (after adjusting for inflation), including those to physician offices (from $119 to $180), hospital emergency rooms ($393 to $638), and dental care providers ($181 to $247).

AHRQ, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, improves the quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of health care for all Americans. The data in this AHRQ News and Numbers summary are taken from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), a detailed source of information on the health services used by Americans, the frequency with which they are used, the cost of those services, and how they are paid. For more information, go to Trends in Health Care Expenditures for Adults Ages 18-44: 2006 versus 1996.

For other information, or to speak with an AHRQ data expert, please contact Bob Isquith at or call (301) 427-1539.

Current as of December 2009
Internet Citation: Prescription Drug Expenses Increase for American Adults Age 18-44: AHRQ News and Numbers, December 09, 2009. December 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.


The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


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