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New Data About People Who Are High Users of Health Care

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AHRQ News and Numbers

Release date: May 23, 2005

In 2002, just 5 percent of Americans accounted for 49 percent of all health care spending, according to the latest available data from Federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

  • Americans with the highest medical bills (the top 5 percent) had more than $11,500 in total annual medical expenses.
  • Americans with the lowest medical bills (the bottom 50 percent) spent less than $664.
  • About one-third of people with the highest medical expenses (the top 5 percent) had out-of-pocket costs that exceeded 10 percent of their family income; almost one-fifth had out-of-pocket costs that exceeded 20 percent of their family income.
  • Not surprisingly, older Americans tended to have higher medical bills. More than one-quarter of Americans with the very highest bills were between the ages of 65 and 79, and another 14 percent were 80 and older.

For a copy of Characteristics of Persons with High Medical Expenditures in the U.S. Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population, 2002, visit [PDF Help].


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