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America's $3.5 trillion health care system

Doctors perform surgery to fix a patient's ruptured disc.
Americans spent about $3.5 trillion on health care in 2017. Photo: Andy Cross / The Denver Post via Getty Images

Americans continue to spend a lot of money on health care. Don't expect that to change. New preliminary federal data show annual health care spending climbed 4.6% to $3.5 trillion in 2017 — higher than the 4.3% growth rate in 2016 and still a lot higher than the broader inflation rate.

The bottom line: The new data reinforce the point that hospital visits, doctor appointments, surgeries, prescriptions and other health care services are gobbling up more of the U.S. economy right now and in the future at the expense of other societal priorities.