Large bulk of U.S. healthcare is taxpayer-funded

Not only is the United States the most expensive country in the world to obtain healthcare services, the federal government is picking up the majority of the tab.

That's the conclusion of researchers at the City University of New York at Hunter College, who recently published a study in the American Journal of Public Health. Their findings: The U.S. spent nearly $1.9 trillion on tax-funded healthcare expenditures in 2013, including provisions for the Medicare and Medicaid programs and tax subsidies for U.S. citizens to purchase commercial health insurance.

That total is expected to rise to $3.62 trillion by 2024. The 2013 figure represented 64.3 percent of all healthcare expenditures in the U.S. and it will rise to 67.1 percent by 2024, the report noted.

Those projections appear to jibe with a recent study issued by the Office of the Actuary of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. It noted that U.S. healthcare spending rose by 5.3 percent in 2014 and topped $3 trillion for the first time.

Those government-funded expenditures represented 11.2 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, higher than any other developed country in the world. The Netherlands had the second-highest total, at 9.7 percent. The United Kingdom and Canada, both of which have single-payer healthcare systems, spent 7.3 percent of their GDP and 7.2 percent, respectively.

"Although taxpayers fund the vast majority of health spending, overall priorities for this funding are rarely discussed, the study concluded. "Appreciation of the magnitude of government funding might encourage more explicit, appropriate, and equitable targeting of these expenditures as components of a total health budget."

One Democratic presidential candidate, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, has proposed switching over to a single-payer system completely, which he said would cut costs and expenditures significantly.

To learn more:
- read the study abstract