Health Expenditures and Characteristics of High Spenders

MEPS Statistical Brief # 521

In 2016, spending on healthcare accounted for 17.9 percent of the United States, yet the majority of this spending was concentrated in a relatively small percentage of the population.

Concentration of Health Expenditures and Selected Characteristics of High Spenders, a statistical brief from AHRQ’s Medical Expenditure Panel Survey-Household Component, describes the overall concentration of healthcare expenses across the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population.

Highlights:
  • In 2016, the top 1 percent of persons ranked by their healthcare expenditures accounted for about 22 percent of total healthcare expenditures, while the bottom 50 percent accounted for only about 3 percent.
  • Persons ages 65 and older and whites were disproportionately represented in the top spending tiers.
  • Inpatient hospital care accounted for 40 percent of spending for persons in the top 5 percent of the spending distribution.
  • About three-quarters of aggregate expenses for persons in the top 5 percent of spenders were paid for by private insurance and Medicare, with about equal proportions paid by each of the two insurance types.

Select to access Concentration of Health Expenditures and Selected Characteristics of High Spenders.

Page last reviewed February 2019
Page originally created February 2019
Internet Citation: Health Expenditures and Characteristics of High Spenders. Content last reviewed February 2019. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. https://www.ahrq.gov/news/health-expenditures.html
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