US Healthcare System Gets Clean Bill of Health

September 17, 2002 ( - The federal government's latest assessment paints a glowing picture of the nation's health and longevity.

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) report said that the US continues shelling out more of its gross domestic product for health care than any other major industrialized country, according to Washington publisher BNA.

That spending level has apparently started to hit the mark, according to the HHS. The report detailed gains in life expectancy, which reached 74 for men and nearly 80 for women in 2000, the longest in US history.

Also, infant morality dropped 75% from 1950 to 2000. The report cited significant strides in fighting heart disease, stroke, and AIDS as well.

The report highlighted a decline in the length of hospital stays. Twenty years ago patients spent an average of seven days in the hospital, compared to an average of 4.9 days in 2000. Also, 63% of all surgeries now are performed as outpatient procedures, with patients being discharged after a short stay in a recovery room, the HHS report said.

Spending Levels

Meanwhile, HHS said Americans spent $1.3 trillion on health care in 2000, or 13.2% of gross domestic product. The 13.2% of GDP figure represented a slight increase from the 13.1% of GDP that went to health care annually in the previous three years.

Of that money, the report said one-third of the health care dollar was spent on hospital care, about one-fifth on physicians, and almost one-tenth on prescription drugs. The cost of prescription drugs grew faster than any other category of health care spending from 1995 to 2000, rising by 15% a year, according to the report.
Government programs–mainly Medicare and Medicaid–picked up 43% of all medical bills in 2000. Private insurance covered 35% of all medical bills and private sources paid 5%. Consumers paid 17% out of their own pockets, according to the report.