AHRQ details spending on health care

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Among recent releases from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, its data on who’s spending what on health care stands out as particularly useful to a broad audience. It has already inspired posts, graphics and stories around the web, and even journalists who don’t plan to use the data directly can get useful context from these secondary pieces.

Thanks are due to AHCJ member Eileen Beal, a Cleveland-based independent journalist, and MedCity News’ Veronica Combs for pointing us to a handy guide to the AHRQ data.

American Medical News’ Doug Trapp uses the AHRQ data to create a profile of America’s heaviest health care consumers. For the record, he reports that they’d most likely be white, female and privately insured.

They are the costliest 1% of patients in the U.S. Caring for them accounts for more than 20% of what the nation spends on all of its health care. In contrast, the least costly half of all patients are associated with only 3% of total health spending, according to an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality analysis of spending data from 2008 and 2009 released in January.

Finally, we have the AHRQ statistical brief itself. It’s quite accessible, and reporters will find its references section to be a hyperlinked gold mine of handy numbers and research reports.

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