Are these averages indicative of what a typical family pays for medical care?
No, because they aggregate the small number of families who have very large health care expenditures with a much larger group that has very modest expenses. Health economists often invoke the so-called 80-20 rule, which suggests that 20 percent of those using the system run up 80 percent of the expenses. Because an individual often cannot predict which group he or she will fall into, health insurance is a useful mechanism for spreading the risk.
This chart shows that the 1 percent of the population with the biggest medical bills paid, on average, $64,085 and their spending was equal to 21 percent of all health spending in 2003.