GDP: Health Services Make Up 39 Percent of Growth

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Today’s advance release of Q4 GDP showed the production of goods actually shrank in the fourth quarter. As a result, the (annualized) $26.3 billion growth in health services spending accounted for 39 percent of GDP growth of $68.0 billion. It comprised 32 percent of services spending growth and 38 percent of growth in personal consumption expenditure (Table I). This means that health services spending continues to devour more of our budgets. The evidence continues to indicate Obamacare is not bending the cost curve.

20160129 TI

From 2014 Q4 to 2015 Q4, health services spending grew more moderately, comprising 19 percent of GDP growth, 26 percent of growth in personal consumption expenditure, and 29 percent of services growth (Table II). This is still disproportionately high.

20160129 TII

Technical note: When I discuss health services in these quarterly GDP releases, I mean only health services. I do not include purchases of medical equipment, or facilities construction. While I include Medicare and Medicaid, I do not include Veterans Health Administration or other government benefits. So, these dollar figures undercount the amount of our economy consumed by the government-health complex.

(See: Measuring the Economy: A Primer on the GDP and the National Income and Product Accounts, Bureau of Economic Analysis, October 2014, pages 5-2 and 5-3; Micah B. Hartman, et al., “A Reconciliation of Health Care Expenditures in the National Health Expenditures Accounts and in Gross Domestic Product,” Research Spotlight, Survey of Current Business, September 2010, pages 42-52.)

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