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Drug, Health Care Costs Increase for Americans 18 to 44

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Between 1996 and 2006, the average cost of a prescription drug for patients ages 18 to 44 doubled, from $79 to $161, according to a U.S. government report released Wednesday.

Prescription drugs now account for a much larger share of health care costs for this age group (10 percent in 1996, 18 percent in 2006), even though the proportion who purchased prescription drugs decreased from 60 percent to 54 percent over that period, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Among the other findings for Americans ages 18 to 44:

- Total health cares expenses in 2006 were $231 billion, about $40 billion more than in 1996, after factoring in inflation.

- A smaller proportion incurred health care expenses in 2006 (77 percent) than in 1996 (80.5 percent). However the average per person expense for people who had health expenses was much higher in 2006 ($2,703) than in 2006 ($2,177).

- Major increases in per visit costs were noted for some areas, including visits to physicians offices ($119 to $180), hospital emergency rooms ($393 to $638) and dental care providers ($181 to $247).

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