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December 27, 2016

How Can the United States Spend Its Health Care Dollars Better?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Office of the Provost, Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Department of Health Care Management, The Perelman School of Medicine and The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
JAMA. 2016;316(24):2604-2606. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.16739

In 2015, the United States spent roughly $3.2 trillion on health care.1 That is a staggering, almost unimaginable amount. Indeed, this level of spending makes the US health care system the fifth largest economy in the world, behind only the US, Chinese, Japanese, and German national economies. By 2020, health care spending in the United States is expected to surpass the national economy of Germany, at which point the US health care system will be the fourth largest economy in the world. To put this into another context, in 2015, the entire US Department of Defense budget was just under $600 billion. In addition, the entire worldwide information technology sector (including hardware, software, data analytics, and customer-facing initiatives) accounted for $2.46 trillion, with the United States and Canada together contributing less than $1 trillion.2,3