Updated May 6, 2019

Infographic: Medical Expenses - The Cost of "Living"

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If you're like most employees, your company has required you to pay even more out of your paycheck to cover medical costs, or at least more out-of-pocket every time you go to get care. Where does the money go? Who's really paying? And how much does it cost all of us to “live”?

To find the answers during the early stages of healthcare reform - as Americans are just now required to comply with the new law - we took a close look at the costs and figures involved in healthcare in this country. Here's what we found.

(Click Image to Enlarge)
Infographic: Medical Expenses
Infographic: Medical Expenses © CreditDonkey


Americans are good at a lot of things - and spending money on healthcare is one of them. In fact, healthcare has grown to about a fifth of America's entire economy, and at over $8,000 per head in healthcare purchases per year, we're the industry's best customers. Norway, at $5,352 per person, is a distant second.

Why the hefty payments? You'll have to ask the hospitals and the doctors - they're the top two recipients of your healthcare dollars, followed by the drug companies, nursing homes, dentists, and home healthcare companies. American doctors are some of the most expensive in the world, as a matter of fact, and the drugs they're prescribing can cost 60% or more than they do in large European countries.


Economics 101 teaches that when the price of a product rises, the demand for that product should fall. Along the same line, when the price of medical care or health insurance rises, the demand for it should fall. Of course, that connection gets complicated when it involves buying a product that is necessary to stay alive. Still, 35% of people without insurance admit that they delay or avoid medical care because of the costs involved, but only 13% of those on Medicaid and 8% of those with private insurance report doing so. Women are more likely to put off care, especially dental care.


Clearly, having a health insurance policy plays a big role in whether you'll seek medical care. And even if you pay only a fraction - or none - of the bill yourself, that medical care is never free - somebody, somewhere along the line, pays for every dollar of it. Our data analysis shows that private insurance foots the bill for almost 40% of all medical care in the United States right now; Medicare (aka "the taxpayers") pays about 25%, and you pay about 16% out of pocket for your own care. Medicaid (also paid by "the taxpayers") pays the rest.

The high cost, along with the burden of the cost for the uninsured, were a driving force for the health-care reform law. After all, delay care and you're more likely to need an expensive trip to the ER later on. Instead of steady insurance payments, you could end up with unexpected medical bills that will be harder to pay. When reform was passed, 15% of Americans didn't have healthcare, and about a third of people in their twenties and thirties didn't have it. The success of the new law hinges almost entirely on getting that group of people to pony up.

But remember the law of supply and demand: when the price of insurance is high, the demand for it will be relatively low (unless the government forces you to buy it, of course). To date, enrollments under the state and federal insurance exchanges have fallen far short of their goals, especially among people under 35. This means that a larger-than-expected pool of older (and thus more medically expensive) people in the exchanges could require insurers to up their premiums in order to compensate for the extra costs of their care.

(Research by Kelly; Graphic Design by Boris; Graphic Editing by Maria; Additional Writing by Tina; Additional Editing by Sarah and Dana)

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