What Are the Biggest Drivers of Cost in U.S. Health Care?

U.S. health care costs continue to rise, with per capita costs already the highest in the world.

Health care costs in the United States are substantially higher than in other developed countries. This is true even though the United States does not provide objectively better access to care or quality of care.

The United States spent an estimated $2.5 trillion on health care in 2009, according to the federal government's National Health Expenditure Accounts.

This translated to 17.6 percent of the country's gross domestic product and per capita costs of $8,086, and trend lines indicate further increases under the current scenario.

According a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) analysis on the factors driving health care spending growth, high costs in health care strain state and federal governments and make it difficult for people to afford health insurance.

Significant factors driving growth in spending are obesity, higher drug costs, administrative costs and low productivity gains in health care. Surprisingly, less important factors include demographics, expanded access and malpractice claims.