The U.S. health economy

In the U.S., health care expenses are incredibly high. The rate of growth in health care costs is frightening and cannot go unabated. The economy simply cannot sustain it. Private and public investments, including those in key areas of the economy such as education, science, infrastructure, and defense, will undoubtedly have to be reduced to fund health care. Health care reform is a vital necessity as health care costs threaten the U.S. economy and security.

On a national level, U.S. health care costs totaled $2.53 trillion in 2009 []. Putting this into perspective, Americans spent nearly 2.5 times more on health care than on food in 2009. Hospital care, prescription drugs, and physician and clinical services are major costs that make up slightly less than two thirds of our health care costs. Medical imaging is an especially significant proportion of clinical services.

Health care represented 17.3% of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2009. It was 8.8% in 1980 and 11.9% in 1990. At current rates of increase, health care will be 25% of the U.S. GDP by 2025 []. Health care costs are growing faster than the nation’s overall economy and faster than personal income.

The rate of increase may itself increase faster than projected above as a result of the aging of the U.S. population and the dramatic increase in obesity rates. The U.S. population aged >65 years was 30 million in 2000 and is projected to be 71 million in 2025. In the period 1975–1980, 15% of Americans were obese. This increased to 35% by 2007–2008, and continues to rise. Poor diet, lack of exercise, and weight gain will continue to increase the number of patients with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and orthopedic injury []. There will also be continued advancement in medical technologies and pharmaceuticals. These are all factors that will increase medical costs in the future.