Healthcare spending could reach $4.5 trillion by 2019

Healthcare spending jumped 1.1 percentage points in 2009, and now accounts for 17.3 percent of the economy. Within two years, though, government spending on healthcare is projected to be more than private spending for the first time, according to a report published in Health Affairs. The report also pointed out that by 2019, overall healthcare spending could reach $4.5 trillion.

The figures, released in a report by CMS actuaries are "a reminder of the challenges ahead of us, particularly with regard to the huge, unfunded liability of Medicare," said Gail Wilensky, a former CMS director who is now a fellow at Project Hope--which published the report. She added that the real danger lies in growth if the program isn't significantly redesigned.

The almost $2.5 trillion in healthcare spent in 2009 was $134 billion more than the previous year, when healthcare consumed 16.2 percent of the gross domestic product, according to the report. The record spending increases are attributable to the recession and government efforts to expand public health care programs, such as Medicaid. The actuaries anticipate health spending will level out slightly after the next few years, compared to previous estimates. The increased spending related to the recession is expected to taper off next year.

To learn more:
- read the Health Affairs report
- check out this New York Times article
- read this Los Angeles Times piece