The Decade-Long Slowdown in U.S. Healthcare Spending (in a Graph)

More

There haven't been many happy stories to cut through the doom and gloom surrounding America's out-of-control, paycheck eating, budget-busting healthcare costs. But here's one of them, graphed by researchers at the Altarum Institute. Over the past decade, the growth of total U.S. medical spending has actually slowed by about half, falling from an annual rate of more than 8 percent in 2003 to 4 percent in 2012 (health spending growth in BLUE; overall economic growth in RED): 

Altarum_Institute_Health_Care_Spending.PNG

Does this mean we can stop worrying about the cost of Medicare 10 years or 20 years down the line? Sadly not. Remember, this is the tally of all private and public expenditures, and as more Americans age, their treatment needs will eventually swamp the federal budget. But -- as Annie Lowrey reported in the New York Times yesterday -- these numbers do suggest that doctors and insurers have at least begun to get a handle on expenses. While some of the slowdown can be credited to patients cutting back during the recession, the trend started before the economy fell apart and has lasted into the recovery.

But here's a red flag: The rate hasn't dropped much in the last few years. Instead, it's stayed roughly even, ranging between 3.5 percent and 5 percent a year since 2010. 

So our out-of-control healthcare spending has gotten a bit less out of control. Think of it as a sign that our problems can be fixed, rather than one that they'll eventually fix themselves. 

Jump to comments
Presented by

Jordan Weissmann is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

How have stories changed in the age of social media? The minds behind House of Cards, This American Life, and The Moth discuss.


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In