Health Expenditures Across Population Subgroups

MEPS Statistical Brief No. 448

Estimates of health care expenses for the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized (community) population are critical to policymakers and others concerned with access to medical care and the cost and sources of payment for that care. In 2012, health care expenses among the U.S. community population totaled $1.35 trillion. Medical care expenses, however, are highly concentrated among a relatively small proportion of individuals in the community population. More recent data have revealed that over time there has been some decrease in the extent of this concentration at the upper tail of the expenditure distribution. 

Differentials in the Concentration of Health Expenditures across Population Subgroups in the U.S., a statistical brief from the Household Component of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) for 2012, provides detailed estimates of the concentration in the level of health care expenditures for the nation, further distinguished by specific population subgroups. Studies that examine the concentration of health care expenditures, their magnitude, and their respective differentials distinguished by specific population subgroups are essential to helping discern the factors most likely to drive health care spending and the characteristics of the individuals who incur them. 

Highlights

  • In 2012, the top 1 percent ranked by their health care expenses accounted for 22.7 percent of total health care expenditures with an annual mean expenditure of $97,956. Overall, the top 50 percent of the population ranked by their expenditures accounted for 97.3 percent of overall health care expenditures, while the lower 50 percent accounted for only 2.7 percent of the total.
  • Individuals age 65 and older were characterized by substantially less concentrated levels of health care spending relative to their younger counterparts. Alternatively, the elderly had the highest mean levels of health care expenditures relative to younger population subgroups at the top quantiles of the expenditure distribution.
  • The top 5 percent of the uninsured population under age 65 ranked by their health care expenses accounted for 58.9 percent of the health care expenditures incurred by this subpopulation with an annual mean of $14,565. Conditioned on insurance coverage status, the uninsured had the lowest annual mean expenses.
  • The top 5 percent of individuals with four or more chronic conditions accounted for 29.7 percent of health care expenditures for this subpopulation with an annual mean of $78,198. Based on chronic condition status, persons with four or more chronic conditions had the lowest concentrated levels of health care expenditures and higher annual mean expenses at the top quantiles of the expenditure distribution.

Select to access Differentials in the Concentration of Health Expenditures across Population Subgroups in the U.S. 

Current as of September 2014
Internet Citation: Health Expenditures Across Population Subgroups : MEPS Statistical Brief No. 448. September 2014. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/meps1.html