Just five percent of patients account for half medical spending

Hospitals looking to control escalating healthcare costs can narrow their search. Just 5 percent of patients were responsible for half of all U.S. medical expenses in 2009, according to a new report from the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation.

The top 10 percent of Americans with the highest healthcare costs accounted for 63.6 percent of all medical spending, and the top 1 percent were responsible for 20 percent. Meanwhile, half the population racks up only 3 percent of total healthcare spending.

The study found that--to no surprise--people over 55 years old made up a large proportion of the high spending groups, while those who were much younger had lower medical spending.

In addition, people with at least one chronic condition were two to four times more likely to end up in the top 5 percent of spending, with the risk increasing as the number of chronic conditions rose.

This is consistent with Institute of Medicine data released Wednesday, which showed that chronic pain affects 116 million Americans and results in healthcare and economic costs of $560 billion to $635 billion a year.

According to the study, there is a correlation between obesity-related conditions and the small percentage of very sick patients racking up big medical bills. Nearly half of all patients in the top 5 percent of spending had hypertension, one-third had lipid disorders (high cholesterol), and more than one-quarter had diabetes.

For more:
- check out the report (.pdf)
- read the H&HN Daily article