Health Care Costs 101: ACA Spurs Modest Growth

Katherine B. Wilson

US health care spending continued its modest growth, increasing by 5.8% in 2015 compared to 5.3% in 2014. This was due in part to coverage expansion under the ACA.

December 2016
Who Paid for Health Care over the Past 50 Years?

National health spending grew slightly in 2015, from 5.3% in 2014 to 5.8% in 2015. US health spending reached $3.2 trillion in 2015, or $9,990 per capita, and accounted for 17.8% of gross domestic product (GDP). The faster growth was due, in part, to coverage expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and increased spending on prescription drugs.

The Health Care Costs 101 series of reports, which rely on the most recent data available, details how much is spent on health care in the US, which services are purchased, and who is paying for what. The next full edition of the series will be released in 2017.

Key findings include:

  • Federal spending increased by $75.4 billion, or 8.9%. Federal subsidies for ACA marketplace premiums and cost sharing accounted for $17.3 billion, while an additional $38.5 billion was spent on Medicaid.
  • The growth rate on household spending nearly doubled from 2.6% in 2014 to 4.7% in 2015. Households' contribution to employer-sponsored private health insurance premiums represented $16.1 billion of the $40.2 billion increase, due in part to increased enrollment.
  • Spending on prescription drugs increased by $26.7 billion, or 9.0%. Spending on new brand-name drugs was the primary driver in the growth.

The full report, as well as all the charts found in the report, plus a quick reference guide with 2015 data, can be found under Document Downloads. Full reports with previous years' data are also available.