America's health care economy keeps ballooning
Americans spent $3.65 trillion on health care in 2018, according to new preliminary estimates from independent federal actuaries. That total is about the same size as Spain and Canada's entire economies — combined.
Why it matters: U.S. health spending last year was 4.4% higher than in 2017, a rate that is still growing faster than the broader economy — which means more money is being taken out of people's paychecks to pay for a system that continues to worry and frustrate patients.
By the numbers: That $3.65 trillion health care tab last year translates to $11,121 per person.
- Spending on hospitals, doctors and other clinic services was $2.16 billion, holding steady at 59% of total health care spending.
- The spending category that experienced the largest year-over-year increase was the general cost of administering health insurance, which rose 7.7% in 2018.
- Spending on prescription drugs purchased in retail pharmacies went up 3.3% in 2018, higher than the 0.4% rate in 2017.
- A majority of the bigger spending totals were due to higher overall prices, while the "use and intensity" of health care services played a smaller role.
Three main conduits pay for health care services: Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance.
- Private health insurance continues to fare the worst on controlling costs. Per-person spending among the privately insured rose 4.5% in 2018 despite the fact enrollment in private plans stayed flat.
- Per-person spending in Medicaid and Medicare increased 1.1% and 3.1%, respectively, last year. Those government programs pay lower provider rates than private insurers.