The Other 1 Percent: Sick People (Chart)

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Here’s a 1 percent no one wants to be part of: According to a recent analysis by Christopher Conover, a Duke University researcher on health policies and inequalities, barely 1 percent of the population accounts for nearly 20 percent of the nation’s already inflated health care spending. These few people each account for, on average, $115,000 in health care spending every year, which is almost three times the annual salary of the average American worker. Only 5 percent of the population accounts for fully 50 percent of all the nation’s health care spending. Everybody else generates, on average, about $360 a year in health care costs, or about 3 percent.

So it’s not hard to  see where some of the problems lie in the health care system, which is the biggest driver of the country’s long-term deficit problems. Conover helpfully provides a chart from his forthcoming book, American Health Economy Illustrated:

Health Care's 1 Percent: Christopher J. ConoverHealth Care’s 1 Percent: Christopher J. ConoverGiven the small number of people driving the rapidly escalating health care costs in this country, it seems like solving the problem ought to be a snap, right? Clearly some people need to be spending a little more to make sure they don’t get sick down the road, and perhaps others ought to be getting a little less of the expensive and not necessarily useful stuff. Of course, if the problem were that simple, it would have been fixed by now. As GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich said in 2005, “‘Health is about 30 times more difficult than national security.”

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest