Symptoms of an ailing health care system

Published April 1, 1991  | April 1991 issue

  • Americans spent $604.1 billion on health care in 1989, up 11.1 percent from 1988.

  • Health care costs have increased faster than inflation every year since 1980, with hospital costs per inpatient day rising 13 percent annually between 1980 and 1988.

  • Over the last 15 years, the total number of Medicaid recipients increased by 7 percent, yet total Medicaid payments more than quadrupled over the same period.

  • About 37 million people are uninsured, three-quarters of whom are employees and their dependents.

  • U.S. health expenditures per capita were $2,124 in 1988, the highest of 22 industrialized nations; the United States had the highest infant mortality rates among the same countries.

  • In 1960, health care accounted for 5.3 percent of gross national product, in 1989 that figure was 11.6 percent, twice as large as federal spending on defense, and more than six times larger than the value of U.S. farm output.

  • Chrysler Corp. says that the cost of health care adds $700 to the price of each U.S.-built car.

  • A National Association of Manufacturers 1989 survey reported that health costs for small businesses (less than 25 employees) rose by 33 percent over the previous year, 1.5 times the rate of large companies.

  • American hospitals spend an average of 19 percent of their budgets on billing and administration; overall, 23 cents out of every health care dollar goes for billing and bureaucracy.