The Healthcare 1%

Andrew Sullivan —  Nov 30 2011 @ 10:29am


Christopher J. Conover breaks down healthcare spending:

The 1 percent of the population that has the highest annual health expenses accounts for one-fifth of health spending (figure 12.1a). Their annual spending in 2011 likely exceeded $115,000. (These figures exclude those institutionalized in nursing homes and long-term mental hospitals; their inclusion would drive these figures even higher).

Those in the top 5 percent account for just under half of all spending, with average annual expenditures that exceed $50,000. With the average U.S. worker earning less than $45,000 a year, these numbers demonstrate the desirability of some kind of health insurance coverage. Few but the wealthiest families are in a position to self-insure spending at these amounts. It would be only a slight exaggeration to observe that only the 1 percent could comfortably afford to be in the health spending 1 percent.

At the other end of the distribution, individuals in the bottom half of spending account for only 3 percent of annual health costs. Their average annual spending is less than $360. 

He proposes "having a Republican presidential candidate debate on this issue alone." I wonder how much of the cost for the top 1 percent in costs is spent in the last few days or weeks of life.