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Reproduced from Kaiser Family Foundation; Chart: Axios Visuals

Voters care a lot about drug prices, but they’re not the main reason the U.S. spends so much on health care.

The big picture: The U.S. spends twice as much per person as other wealthy nations, according to a new Peterson-Kaiser Tracker analysis — and hospitals and outpatient care are the primary culprits.

By the numbers: The U.S. spent $10,637 per capita on health care in 2018. Comparable countries spent $5,527.

  • The overwhelming majority of the difference — 76% of it — came from spending on inpatient and outpatient care — not drugs, which get more attention but represent just 10% of the difference.

Why it matters: Cutting hospital spending is hard to do without causing real pain, and that has made it politically risky, as well.

  • A public option, like that proposed by Joe Biden, would put pressure on hospital prices. The intensity of that pressure would depend on the plan’s payment level and how many people it covers, which would affect its purchasing power.
  • A single-payer health plan would have even more leverage, though universal coverage — not price controls — is usually its supporters’ primary focus.
  • The hospital industry led the lobbying effort that killed a public option in the Affordable Care Act, and spent millions in the Democratic primaries this year advertising against Medicare for All.

What we're watching: President Trump has set out new price transparency rules for hospitals, though its likely impact on costs is unclear and the industry has challenged it in court.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Severe coronavirus infections continue to mount

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking ProjectHarvard Global Health Institute; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Deaths and severe illness from the coronavirus continue to set new records almost every day, especially in the South and the West.

The big picture: More than 130,000 Americans are in the hospital today with COVID-19 infections. That's straining several states' health care systems and will keep pushing the virus' death toll higher and higher.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Jan 6, 2021 - Health

New York hospitals continue to sue patients over unpaid medical bills

New York's largest health system has continued to sue patients over unpaid medical bills amid the pandemic, even though most other hospitals in the state have suspended their claims, the New York Times reports.

Driving the news: Northwell Health, a nonprofit hospital system that is run by one of Cuomo's closest allies, sued more than 2,500 patients last year for an average of $1,700 in unpaid bills.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate Democrats settling on 25% corporate tax rate

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The universe of Democratic senators concerned about raising the corporate tax rate to 28% is broader than Sen. Joe Manchin, and the rate will likely land at 25%, parties close to the discussion tell Axios.

Why it matters: While increasing the rate from 21% to 25% would raise about $600 billion over 15 years, it would leave President Biden well short of paying for his proposed $2.25 trillion, eight-year infrastructure package.