Friday, July 12, 2024
Friday, July 12, 2024
Home » Why Are Americans Paying More For Healthcare?

Why Are Americans Paying More For Healthcare?

by Koby John
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The United States spends significantly more on healthcare compared to other nations but does not have better healthcare outcomes. What’s more, rising healthcare spending is a key driver of America’s unsustainable national debt, and high healthcare costs also make it harder to respond to public health crises like the COVID-19 pandemic. Below is a look at the increasing healthcare costs in the United States, what is causing that rapid growth, and why it matters for public health and our fiscal outlook.


The United States has one of the highest costs of healthcare in the world. In 2021, U.S. healthcare spending reached $4.3 trillion, which averages to about $12,900 per person. By comparison, the average cost of healthcare per person in other wealthy countries is only about half as much. While the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the trend in rising healthcare costs, such spending has been increasing long before COVID-19 began. Relative to the size of the economy, healthcare costs have increased over the past few decades, from 5 percent of GDP in 1960 to 18 percent in 2021.


Generally, healthcare spending can be thought of as a function of price (dollars charged for healthcare services) and utilization (the amount of services used). There are several underlying factors that can increase price and utilization, thereby boosting spending on healthcare. The most notable of those factors are an aging population and healthcare prices.

An Aging Population

The share of the U.S. population age 65 and over has increased significantly over the past several years, rising from 13 percent in 2010 to 16 percent in 2021. Furthermore, that number is projected to continue climbing – reaching 20 percent by 2030. Since people age 65 and over, on average, spend more on healthcare than any other age group, growth in the number of older Americans is expected to increase total healthcare costs over time.

Furthermore, as individuals turn 65, they will become eligible for Medicare, and the number of enrollees in the program — 65 million in 2022 — will grow substantially. The increase in enrollment is expected to significantly increase the cost of Medicare over time. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office projects that Medicare spending will nearly double over the next 30 years relative to the size of the economy — growing from 3.1 percent of GDP in 2023 to 5.5 percent by 2053.

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