Who Pays for Health Care Today

Who Pays for Health Care Today

A pair of charts from NPR's Lam Thuy Vo, America's greatest economic chartmaker, has attracted attention for clearly identifying an important trend in the U.S. health care system.

The first chart shows how spending on health care has developed over the past 40 years. It hasn't changed much:

Where money comes from, however, has changed drastically:

Out-of-pocket spending, meaning dollars paid out by the person or family receiving the health care, has gone from the largest component of health care spending to the smallest besides the category of "other."

The NPR Planet Money post has a brief discussion of what the decline of out-of-pocket health care spending might mean, so read the whole thing. It's clear that the dominance of third-party payment is the critical feature of our health care system, for better or, more likely, for worse.

Joseph Lawler is editor of RealClearPolicy. He can be reached by email or on twitter.

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