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AHRQ Releases 1997 Data about the Cost of Health Care

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Press Release Date: June 5, 2001

The average expenditures per person who had any medical expenses in 1997 was $2,424, which includes out-of-pocket payments and payments made by any type of insurance or other source, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). During that year, a total of $553 billion was spent throughout the health care system for services and supplies. The data are from AHRQ's 1997 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) Household Component, which covers the U.S. civilian non-institutionalized population.

The new data will be useful to researchers and policy makers interested in investigating changes in sources of payment and insurance coverage for various economic groups or special populations over time. The 1997 data now can be compared with the 1996 MEPS expenditure data. For example, expenditures for prescribed drugs were $72.3 billion, up nearly $7 billion over 1996 estimates.

The 1997 data are based on a sample of approximately 33,000 individuals, with special emphasis on groups such as the poor, elderly, uninsured, and racial and ethnic minorities. MEPS is an ongoing survey designed to provide nationally representative data on the types of health care Americans use, how frequently they use them, and who pays for their care. It also provides information on the types and costs of private health insurance used by the U.S. population.

Comparisons between 1997 and 1996 expenditure data can be made from the MEPS Web site at Tabular reports and chart books based on the 1997 data will be available soon. More detailed information on the MEPS survey, as well as downloadable micro-data files containing 1997 and 1996 data, also can be found on the Web site.

For additional information, please contact AHRQ Public Affairs at (301) 427-1364; Karen Carp, (301) 427-1858,; Karen Migdail, (301) 427-1855,


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