Wondering about  affordable health insurance in Brentwood, and why when you hardly spend anything on health care your insurance rates keep on climing?

Accordingly to a  new issue brief from the National Institute of Health Care Management in 2009 half the population – fully 150 million people – spent an average of just $236 per person on health care. That was a paltry $36 billion for the entire group out of $1.3 trillion in personal health care expenditures.

On the other side of the use spectrum, however, just five percent of the population – about 15 million people – spent a whopping $623 billion or about half of all personal health care expenditures. That came to nearly $41,000 per patient.

And if one looks at just the top 1 percent of health care “spenders” – those who were often battling life-threatening or crippling illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, cancer or dementia – they averaged over $90,000 per patient per year. These three million people accounted for over 20 percent of the total health care tab.

The study serves as a cautionary note to advocates on the left or right who think eliminating waste or giving “consumers” a greater financial stake in health care decision-making will be magic bullets for holding down rising health care costs. “We have to get a handle on who these people are and develop more cost-effective strategies to help them,” said Nancy Chockley, president of the NIHCM, which receives most of its funding from various Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance organizations. “Long-term we have to prevent them from getting that far.”

The study showed that the vast majority of big spenders were older and often had multiple chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma and arthritis. Many times those conditions were associated with obesity. Though people 65 and older and eligible for Medicare made up just 13 percent of the population, they made up 40 percent of the high-spending group.

It will be interesting which action will be taken to promote  a more health conscious behavior, which than will help to buy more affordable health insurance in Brentwood and throughout California.