Study: Health Rationing Hurts Obese, Elderly Most

Wednesday, 26 Aug 2009 12:14 PM

By Jim Meyers

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An analysis of healthcare spending in the U.S. reveals the most likely victims of medical care rationing if healthcare reform necessitates it: those Americans who already receive a disproportionate share of spending.

The elderly, the obese, and those who identify themselves as unhealthy totaled one-third of the population in 2006, but they accounted for nearly 60 percent of spending, according to the Department of Health and Human Services' Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.

Median spending for those groups was $2,300 that year, and 10 percent of people in the groups spent more than $15,000, while annual healthcare spending was less than $800 per individual for half the population requiring the least care.

Americans ages 65 and above amounted to 7 percent of the population but accounted for 14 percent of healthcare spending, The New York Times reports.

Unhealthy Americans — those who said their health was fair or poor near the end of the year — were 4 percent of the population and accounted for 9 percent of healthcare spending.

Two percent of Americans ages 65 and above are obese, and they account for 4 percent of all healthcare spending.

Those who are unhealthy and obese total 3 percent of all Americans but use 9 percent of healthcare spending.

And Americans who are 65 and above, obese, and unhealthy — just 1 percent of the population — account for 4 percent of spending.

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