5% of patients responsible for half of healthcare spending

Hospitals trying to curb rising healthcare costs should look no further than the 5 percent of patients who accounted for half of all U.S. healthcare spending in 2009, according to the latest data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) released Wednesday. Those patients cost about $36,000 each.

What's more, only 1 percent of Americans were responsible for 22 percent of healthcare costs; that's roughly $90,000 per person.

Hospitals can use the AHRQ data to identify which patients are likely to drive up healthcare costs and appropriately target cost-saving measures. The data suggests hospitals can find major opportunities to save healthcare dollars in that top 5 percent, noted USA Today.

According to the data, white, non-Hispanic women in poor health, the elderly, and publicly funded healthcare users usually made up the high spending groups.

However, the data did show that in 1996, the top 1 percent of the population accounted for 28 percent of healthcare spending so the actual concentration has dropped since then.

With Medicare set to withhold payments to hospitals with high readmission rates starting in October, the agency plans to examine whether that will affect the spending averages for patients in the high spending groups, said report lead author Steven Cohen in USA Today.

 To learn more:
- read the USA Today article
- here's the study (.pdf)