March 15th, 2012
12:02 PM ET

Zakaria: 5% of U.S. patients account for 50% of health care costs

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

New Jersey’s Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers founder and family medicine practitioner, Jeffrey Brenner, used medical billing records to find that just 1% of patients accounted for 30% of health care costs in Camden. And that's not all he discovered in the city's three hospitals. He says: "We learned that someone went 113 times in one year. Someone went 324 times in five years. In similar workup in Trenton, they found someone who went 450 times in one year." These were people with complicated medical histories and chronic illnesses. One patient alone racked up $3.5 million in medical bills over a five year period. As Brenner says, :"They're the difficult patients to treat, and no one is being paid and incentivized to pay attention to them."

What's more, Camden's problem is America's problem. Just 5% of Americans accounted for half of our nation's health care costs in 2009. This is perhaps the crucial statistic to understand about America's health care problem.

So what should be done? I explore this in depth in Global Lessons: The GPS Road Map for Saving Health Care, which will debut on Sunday, March 18 at 8:00pm and 11:00pm ET & PT on CNN/U.S. it will air on CNN International on Saturday, March 24 at 9:00pm ET.  My companion article for TIME will be in the edition that hits newsstands on Friday, March 17.

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Topics: Health

soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. Judit

    This is a challenging area for both left and right. On the left Keynes "broken wdionw fallacy" confuses "activity" with "wealth creation", and ignores the problem that even if "stimulus" worked, because of production patterns the activity is "stimulated" in China. On the right, the reality is given the growth of technology the marginal contribution of unskilled labor is trending *below* the cost of living for a family.Moral hazard created by the "safety net", or the income gap growing because of the skills gap. Left, right, and center we have to answer not just "where do jobs come from" but where will the average person work when only specialists prosper.

    July 6, 2014 at 8:20 pm |
  2. Lukasz

    Per your previous post (& link),Mike Hulme "undertakes pibluc speaking on climate change, either pro bono or for fees ranging from $50 to $400."Heh. Roger, I'm afraid you will fall closer to Hulme than Gore in your lecture-fee potential ;-]Tant pis....

    July 21, 2014 at 1:37 pm |
  3. Geralynn

    Arlietcs like this make life so much simpler.

    July 25, 2014 at 8:40 pm |
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    January 4, 2021 at 9:30 pm |
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