• Handy economic numbers

    I try to keep a few health policy relevant economic numbers in my head. Very frequently as I read reporting on how much this or that policy change will save or cost, I use these numbers to calculate what fraction of Medicare or the federal budget or the economy that change is. It adds a lot of perspective.

    Here’s a list of my top four handy numbers. All are per year and roughly accurate for 2012, but obviously will change over time:

    • Medicare: ~$550B and expected to be ~$650 by 2014
    • Total US health spending: ~$2.3T
    • Fed budget: ~$3.6T
    • Total economy: ~$14T

    Paul Kelleher on Twitter suggests adding these to my cache:

    • Tax subsidy for employer-sponsored health insurance: ~$250B
    • Federal spending on Medicaid: Also ~$250B

    What are your favorite, handy policy/budget/economic numbers?


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    • Physician salary share of health care spending about 7%.

      Discretionary spending is about 50% defense spending.

      50% of people account for about 3% of medical spending.


    • I like 2.5%, the amount health care expenditures historically (over 40 years) increases over the rate of inflation.