The U.S. Spends More on Health Care Than Any Other Country

By Johnson, Carolyn Y. | Charleston Gazette Mail, December 28, 2016 | Go to article overview

The U.S. Spends More on Health Care Than Any Other Country


Johnson, Carolyn Y., Charleston Gazette Mail


American health care spending, measured in trillions of dollars, boggles the mind. Last year, we spent $3.2 trillion on health care - a number so large that it can be difficult to grasp its scale. A new study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals what patients and their insurers are spending that money on, breaking it down by 155 diseases, patient age, and category - such as pharmaceuticals, or hospitalizations. Among its findings:

* Chronic - and often preventable - diseases are a huge driver of personal health spending. The three most expensive diseases in 2013: diabetes ($101 billion), the most common form of heart disease ($88 billion) and back and neck pain ($88 billion).

* Yearly spending increases aren't uniform: Over a nearly two- decade period, diabetes and low back and neck pain grew at more than 6 percent per year - much faster than overall spending. Meanwhile, heart disease spending grew at 0.2 percent.

* Medical spending increases with age - with the exception of newborns. About 38 percent of personal health spending in 2013 was for people over age 65. Girls between 1 and 4 years old accounted for $2,000 in annual spending; older women 70 to 74 years of age accounted for $16,000.

The analysis provides some insight into what's driving one particularly large statistic: Within a decade, close to a fifth of the American economy will consist of health care.

"It's important we have a complete landscape when thinking about ways to make the health care system more efficient, said Joseph Dieleman, an assistant professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington who led the work.

The data show that the primary drivers of health-care spending vary considerably. For example, more than half of diabetes care is spending on drugs, while only about 4 percent of spending on low back and neck pain was on pharmaceuticals. Generally, more spending is done on elderly people, but about 70 percent of the spending on low back and neck pain was on working-age adults. …

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