Skip to main content

Advanced Search

Advanced Search

Current Filters

Filter your query

Publication Types



Newsletter Article


One Percent of Population Accounts for Nearly 22 Percent of Health Spending

By CQ Staff

January 12, 2012 -- A new statistical brief by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) confirms previous studies that a small segment of the population drives health care expenses. The data shows that 1 percent of the population accounted for 21.8 percent of health spending.

According to the study, health care expenses totaled $1.26 trillion in 2009. And among the 1 percent of the top spenders, the average cost was $90,061 per person.

"Studies that examine the persistence of high levels of expenditures over time are essential to help discern the factors most likely to drive health care spending and the characteristics of the individuals who incur them,'' the brief says.

While the change in the percent of spending that the 1 percent accounts for changed only slightly from 2008, when it was 20.2 percent, to the 21.8 percent figure in 2009, the data over the long term do show a downward trend. In 1996, the top 1 percent accounted for 28 percent of medical spending. The report also said that the top 5 percent of the population continued to account for about half of all health spending and the top 30 percent accounted for nearly 89 percent of all expenditures.

The brief also cited some demographic statistics about health spending but did not offer any analysis of the reasons for the disparity. For example, of those in the top 10 percent of spending in 2009, 80 percent were white, 60 percent were women, 3 percent were between ages 18 and 29, 9.5 percent were African American, 10.7 percent were Hispanic and 2 percent were Asian.

Publication Details