US health care spending by payer and health condition, 1996–2016

Published March 3, 2020, in JAMA (opens in a new window)


US health care spending has continued to increase and now accounts for 18% of the US economy, although little is known about how spending on each health condition varies by payer, and how these amounts have changed over time.


To estimate US spending on health care according to 3 types of payers (public insurance [including Medicare, Medicaid, and other government programs], private insurance, or out-of-pocket payments) and by health condition, age group, sex, and type of care for 1996 through 2016.


Government budgets, insurance claims, facility records, household surveys, and official US records from 1996 through 2016 were collected to estimate spending for 154 health conditions. Spending growth rates (standardized by population size and age group) were calculated for each type of payer and health condition.


Ambulatory care, inpatient care, nursing care facility stay, emergency department care, dental care, and purchase of prescribed pharmaceuticals in a retail setting.

Main Outcomes and Measures 

National spending estimates stratified by health condition, age group, sex, type of care, and type of payer and modeled for each year from 1996 through 2016.


Total health care spending increased from an estimated $1.4 trillion in 1996 (13.3% of gross domestic product [GDP]; $5259 per person) to an estimated $3.1 trillion in 2016 (17.9% of GDP; $9655 per person); 85.2% of that spending was included in this study. In 2016, an estimated 48.0% (95% CI, 48.0%-48.0%) of health care spending was paid by private insurance, 42.6% (95% CI, 42.5%-42.6%) by public insurance, and 9.4% (95% CI, 9.4%-9.4%) by out-of-pocket payments. In 2016, among the 154 conditions, low back and neck pain had the highest amount of health care spending with an estimated $134.5 billion (95% CI, $122.4-$146.9 billion) in spending, of which 57.2% (95% CI, 52.2%-61.2%) was paid by private insurance, 33.7% (95% CI, 30.0%-38.4%) by public insurance, and 9.2% (95% CI, 8.3%-10.4%) by out-of-pocket payments. Other musculoskeletal disorders accounted for the second highest amount of health care spending (estimated at $129.8 billion [95% CI, $116.3-$149.7 billion]) and most had private insurance (56.4% [95% CI, 52.6%-59.3%]). Diabetes accounted for the third highest amount of the health care spending (estimated at $111.2 billion [95% CI, $105.7-$115.9 billion]) and most had public insurance (49.8% [95% CI, 44.4%-56.0%]). Other conditions estimated to have substantial health care spending in 2016 were ischemic heart disease ($89.3 billion [95% CI, $81.1-$95.5 billion]), falls ($87.4 billion [95% CI, $75.0-$100.1 billion]), urinary diseases ($86.0 billion [95% CI, $76.3-$95.9 billion]), skin and subcutaneous diseases ($85.0 billion [95% CI, $80.5-$90.2 billion]), osteoarthritis ($80.0 billion [95% CI, $72.2-$86.1 billion]), dementias ($79.2 billion [95% CI, $67.6-$90.8 billion]), and hypertension ($79.0 billion [95% CI, $72.6-$86.8 billion]). The conditions with the highest spending varied by type of payer, age, sex, type of care, and year. After adjusting for changes in inflation, population size, and age groups, public insurance spending was estimated to have increased at an annualized rate of 2.9% (95% CI, 2.9%-2.9%); private insurance, 2.6% (95% CI, 2.6%-2.6%); and out-of-pocket payments, 1.1% (95% CI, 1.0%-1.1%).

Conclusions and Relevance

Estimates of US spending on health care showed substantial increases from 1996 through 2016, with the highest increases in population-adjusted spending by public insurance. Although spending on low back and neck pain, other musculoskeletal disorders, and diabetes accounted for the highest amounts of spending, the payers and the rates of change in annual spending growth rates varied considerably.

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Dieleman JL, Cao J, Chapin A, Chen C, Li Z, Liu A, Horst C, Kaldjian A, Matyasz T, Scott KW, Bui AL, Campbell M, Duber HC, Dunn AC, Flaxman AD, Fitzmaurice C, Naghavi M, Sadat N, Shieh P, Squires E, Yeung K, Murray CJL. US Health Care Spending by Payer and Health Condition, 1996–2016. JAMA. 3 March 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.0734.