The Current and Projected Taxpayer Shares of US Health Costs

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Abstract

Objectives

We estimated taxpayers’ current and projected share of US health expenditures, including government payments for public employees’ health benefits as well as tax subsidies to private health spending.

Methods

We tabulated official Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services figures on direct government spending for health programs and public employees’ health benefits for 2013, and projected figures through 2024. We calculated the value of tax subsidies for private spending from official federal budget documents and figures for state and local tax collections.

Results

Tax-funded health expenditures totaled $1.877 trillion in 2013 and are projected to increase to $3.642 trillion in 2024. Government’s share of overall health spending was 64.3% of national health expenditures in 2013 and will rise to 67.1% in 2024. Government health expenditures in the United States account for a larger share of gross domestic product (11.2% in 2013) than do total health expenditures in any other nation.

Conclusions

Contrary to public perceptions and official Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates, government funds most health care in the United States. Appreciation of government’s predominant role in health funding might encourage more appropriate and equitable targeting of health expenditures.

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