Faster growth of national health spending

National Health Spending: Faster Growth In 2015 As Coverage Expands And Utilization Increases

By Anne B. Martin, Micah Hartman, Benjamin Washington, Aaron Catlin, the National Health Expenditure Accounts Team
Health Affairs, December 2016


Total nominal US health care spending increased 5.8 percent and reached $3.2 trillion in 2015. On a per person basis, spending on health care increased 5.0 percent, reaching $9,990. The share of gross domestic product devoted to health care spending was 17.8 percent in 2015, up from 17.4 percent in 2014. Coverage expansions that began in 2014 as a result of the Affordable Care Act continued to affect health spending growth in 2015. In that year, the faster growth in total health care spending was primarily due to accelerated growth in spending for private health insurance (growth of 7.2 percent), hospital care (5.6 percent), and physician and clinical services (6.3 percent). Continued strong growth in Medicaid (9.7 percent) and retail prescription drug spending (9.0 percent), albeit at a slower rate than in 2014, contributed to overall health care spending growth in 2015.



By Don McCanne, M.D.

As of 2015, our national health spending is $3.2 trillion or 17.8 percent of our GDP. That is a per capita spending of almost $10,000 ($9,990). Coverage expansions as a result of the Affordable Care Act certainly contributed to this 5.8 percent increase in spending.

The final sentence in the conclusion of this article: “While the 2014–15 period is unique, given the significant changes in health insurance coverage that took place, health spending is projected to increase as a share of the overall economy over the next ten years and will be influenced by the aging of the population, changing economic conditions, and faster medical price growth.”

Changing demographics are expected, predictable, and manageable, but faster price growth remains a problem unique to our fragmented system of financing health care. We could fix that with a publicly-financed and publicly-administered single payer national health program, an improved Medicare for all.