The amount of money spent on health care services has gone up substantially in the past 50 years — and will likely continue to balloon the rest of the decade.
According to a ValuePenguin analysis of data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), personal health care expenses — money spent out of pocket and by health insurers and other third-party contributors — have increased by 5,039% since 1970. During this time, out-of-pocket spending went from $24 billion to $407 billion, rising by 1,580%.
During the same period, retail drug prices increased significantly, too. The CMS charts the rise of prescription drug spending from $6 billion in 1970 to $370 billion in 2019. Out-of-pocket drug spending went up by 1,093% during this period, while drug expenses from private health insurance grew by 32,820%.
And expenditures will continue to rise. Projections from the CMS show personal health care spending is expected to have increased by 318% by 2028 compared to the start of the 21st century.
- Since 1970, the amount spent on personal health care has increased by 5,039%, from $62 billion to $3.2 trillion five decades later in 2019 — the latest year for which federal data was available.
- Out-of-pocket expenditures also rose by 1,580% from 1970 to 2019. However, the out-of-pocket share relative to all personal health expenditures decreased from 39% to 13%.
- The retail prices of prescription drugs went up by 6,622% from 1970 to 2019. During the 21st century alone, all drug-related spending increased by 163% — with out-of-pocket drug spending going up by 42%.
- By 2028, the CMS estimates that expenditures for personal health care will increase to $5.3 trillion, a 318% jump from the start of the 21st century. The cost of drugs will have gone up by 299% since 2001, according to projections.
- Collectively, LendingTree consumers spent more than $2 million a month on average on medical services during 2020, for a total of $24.3 million. During the same period, LendingTree's mobile app users spent a combined $50,614 monthly on mental health services.
Personal health care expenditures have increased from $62 billion in 1970 to $3.2 trillion, and have been at least $1 trillion since 2000
In 1970, personal health care expenditures totaled $62 billion. Nearly 50 years later — in 2019 — spending equaled $3.2 trillion, increasing 5,039%. Expenditures have been at least $1 trillion since 2000, when they were at $1.2 trillion.
Looking more closely at these numbers allows researchers to better understand the effects on consumers. According to the CMS, personal health care costs refer to money spent out of pocket and by health insurers and other third-party contributors. Only a portion of the $3.2 trillion spent in 2019 came out of consumers' pockets, but expenses were still vast.
Between 1970 and 2019, out-of-pocket costs increased by 1,580% from $24 billion to $407 billion.
Personal health care costs (in billions)
Out of pocket (in billions)
The amount of public money spent also grew rapidly during this period. Medicare spending rose by 10,073% — $7 billion to $743 billion — while Medicaid rose from $5 billion to $550 billion, or by 10,892%. Combined Medicaid and Medicare spending for prescription drugs has also increased since 1970. Combined expenses grew from less than $1 billion in 1970 to $136 billion in 2019 — an increase of 33,900%.
The retail cost of prescription drugs rose for all sources of health care payments during this time, not just Medicare and Medicaid. In all, drug-related expenses rose 6,622% from $6 billion to $370 billion by 2019. Consumers paid 10 times more for prescription medications in 2019 than they did in 1970 ($54 billion, up from $5 billion). And private insurers shelled out 32,820% more for medications after 50 years — $165 billion by the end of 2019, up from $1 billion in 1970.
Other segments of health care-related spending also indicate steep mounting expenses since 1970. Expenses from physicians and clinical services grew by 5,299%, while hospital spending rose by 4,282%. Dwarfing both of these were expenditures from home health services, which increased by 56,650% from less than $1 billion to $114 billion by 2019. And even dental care expenditures increased by 2,947%.
The amount spent on personal health care is likely to exceed $5 trillion by 2028, a growth of 8,322% since 1970
Personal health expenses have grown meteorically since 1970, and projections indicate that they’ll continue their ascent in the near future. By 2028, the CMS projects that total personal health expenses will total $5.2 trillion. This would mark a change of 8,322% since 1970. Additionally, it would mean that since 2001 — the start of the 21st century — expenses would grow by 318%, or $4 trillion.
With the projected rise in personal health care expenses comes an increase in the amount spent on various forms of treatment. Leading the way is the expected increase in the cost of home health care. In 1970, the amount spent totaled just $200 million. In 2028, the CMS expects spending to rise to $201 billion, creating an increase of more than 100,000%. This high percentage increase is due to the overall amount spent on home health care having a much lower baseline than other sectors.
Projected expenses in 2028
Change since 2001
Change since 1970
|Personal health care||$5.3 trillion||318%||8,322%|
|Clinical services||$1.2 trillion||292%||8,462%|
|Home health care||$201 billion||487%||100,550%|
Other sectors are expected to show growth, too. Following home health care, the amount spent on prescriptions is likely to rise to $560 billion by 2028, a 299% jump since 2001 and 10,087% since 1970. Expenses paid for clinical services will likely be 8,462% higher than in 1970 and 292% higher than at the start of the century. Hospital care expenditures are projected to hit $2.1 trillion, 7,576% higher than in 1970 and 365% higher than in 2001. Finally, dental expenditures are expected to total $209 billion — 4,340% more than in 1970 and 208% more than in 2001.
Private health insurance expenditures for personal care grew by $1.1 trillion since 1970, a change of 7,611%
The CMS also maintains data on how expenditures related to personal health care paid by private health insurance have changed over time. Private health insurance expenditures and contributions to insurance plans from employers are substantially higher than in 1970.
In 1970, expenditures from private health insurance equaled $14 billion — significantly less than the $1.1 trillion in 2019.
With the growing cost of private health insurance expenditures, employee contributions have also increased markedly, according to available data. CMS records show that private employers have contributed $9.8 trillion to personal health care treatments since 1987 (the first year data on this topic was made available). For comparison, households contributed $4.9 trillion during the same time. And out-of-pocket costs totaled $7.9 trillion during the same period.
Total expenses on record
Change since 1987
Change since 2001
|Private employers||$9.8 trillion||576%||109%|
|State and local employers||$2.9 trillion||910%||205%|
|Out of pocket||$7.9 trillion||285%||103%|
Data on contributions from state and local governments began in 1988 rather than 1987.
During 2020, LendingTree users spent $2 million a month on average on health care services — and that number is up to $2.8 million a month in 2021
ValuePenguin's analysis of anonymized LendingTree users helps researchers understand how the coronavirus pandemic may have impacted health insurance spending. The LendingTree sample for 2020 logs more than 246,000 transactions from more than 135,000 unique consumers. At this rate, consumers spent an average of $180 a person for a collective expense of $24.3 million.
All transactions and per-user spending records show data from 2020.
On average, this amounts to $2 million a month during 2020, which is much higher than the $783,000 a month consumers spent in 2019. But through June 2021, per-month expenses are aiming higher than in 2020. Of a total $16.7 million, consumers have spent $2.8 million a month on health care services in the first part of 2021. So far in 2021, there have been more than 163,000 transactions across more than 88,000 users, yielding a per-user spending rate of $189 per year — higher than $151 in 2019 and $180 in the entirety of 2020.
ValuePenguin also analyzed LendingTree's data on mental health spending during the coronavirus pandemic. In 2020, mental health expenditures totaled $607,000. This amount was 157% more than it was in 2019. Throughout 2020, consumers spent an average of $51,000 a month on mental health services — $128 per consumer over the year. Again, 2021 is shaping up to be more expensive. Through June, consumers spent $445,000 on mental health services, or $139 per user projected over the year.
ValuePenguin tracked how health care spending has changed using data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Researchers used the CMS National Health Expenditure Data files on historical and projected medical expenses.
ValuePenguin's findings focus on personal health care expenses — the amount spent on all medical goods and services to treat specific medical conditions in individuals. Importantly, this is not simply out-of-pocket costs but includes health insurance and other third-party payers, in addition to what an individual pays themselves. Researchers also analyzed changes to spending for clinical services, hospital care, home health, prescriptions and dental services.
Researchers also calculated the expenses that went toward health care services using the transactions of nearly 300,000 anonymized LendingTree users who use the company's app to connect bank accounts and review and track spending in real time. Transaction records are from January 2019 through June 2021.