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20-Plus Healthcare Stats That Will Blow You Away

By Selena Maranjian – Updated Aug 15, 2017 at 9:12AM

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You'll never guess how often patients are misdiagnosed, how much America spends per capita on healthcare, or how many Americans go without dental insurance.

The whole issue of healthcare is very complicated. There have been seven presidents who've tried to get healthcare reform passed. -- Valerie Jarrett 

Now, I have to tell you, it's an unbelievably complex subject ... Nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated. -- Donald Trump 

No matter who you are, the more you learn about healthcare, the more impressed you'll be with how complicated -- and interesting -- it is. Here are some healthcare stats that should surprise and impress you.

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$3.2 trillion: The United States spends a whopping sum on healthcare. The total U.S. healthcare expenditure in 2015 was $3.2 trillion, per the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. At that level, it accounted for 17.8% of our gross domestic product (GDP).

$9,990: Putting the figure above into context, the U.S. spent about $9,990 per person on healthcare, as of 2015, per the Centers for Disease Control. A National Public Radio report put that in perspective, noting that as of 2014, Somalia spent $33 per person on healthcare, and Japan, with a longer life expectancy for its citizens than the U.S. (83.1 years vs. 79.1 years), spent just $3,816 per person.

20%: In 2015, Medicare spending totaled $646 billion, making up about a fifth of our total national healthcare spending. (Medicaid, at $545 billion, made up another 17%.)

19.8%: You might think that most of our healthcare spending goes toward physician services, but you're wrong -- they get about 20%. Hospitals get the biggest chunk. Here's how 2015's national healthcare spending breaks out:

Healthcare Spending Category

Percent of National Healthcare Spending, 2015

Hospital care


Physician and clinical services


Retail outlet sales of medical products


Prescription drugs


Nursing care facilities and continuing care retirement communities


Dental services


Source: Centers for Disease Control. 

9%: Between 2014 and 2015, spending on prescription drugs grew by 9% to $325 billion. That's an alarmingly fast growth rate, but it's slower than the 12% growth rate from the year before.

28.9%: Of our national healthcare spending, the federal government shouldered 28.9% of the total amount, while households forked over 27.7% and private businesses 19.9%.

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Image source: Getty Images.

5,564: There were recently 5,564 registered hospitals in the U.S., per the American Hospital Association. Some 2,845 of them were non-profit community hospitals, while 1,034 were for-profit (i.e. investor-owned) community hospitals.

897,961: There were recently nearly 900,000 staffed beds in U.S. registered hospitals, 87% of which were in community hospitals.

923,308: There were recently 923,308 professionally active physicians in America, per the Kaiser Family Foundation. About half of them, 48%, were primary care physicians, and the others specialists. About a third of American physicians are women.

7,300 to 43,100: The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that by 2030 there will be a shortage of primary care physicians -- with the shortfall between 7,300 and 43,100. The estimated shortfall for specialists is more severe, between 33,500 and 61,800. What's going on? Well, some factors are that many current physicians are expected to retire in the coming years, and our aging population will be driving demand for doctors.

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$107,460: The median salary for nurse practitioners in 2016 was $68,450, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nurse practitioners have been growing in number and are especially good to have around in areas with physician shortages. They are advanced registered nurses, and can examine patients, diagnose illnesses, prescribe medication, and provide treatment. Here are some more median salaries in the healthcare field:


2016 Median Pay





Dental Hygienists




Dieticians and Nutritionists


EMTs and Paramedics


Home Health Aides


Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses


Medical and Clinical Lab Technicians


Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners








Physical Therapists


Physician Assistants


Physicians and Surgeons

More than $207,000



Registered Nurses


Speech-language Pathologists




Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

$260,000: Per Fidelity Investments, the average 65-year-old couple can expect to pay about $260,000, on average, out of pocket for healthcare services over the course of their retirement -- and that doesn't include any long-term care expenses.

11th: According to the Commonwealth Fund, the U.S. ranked last in a study of 11 developed nations when it comes to the performance of our healthcare system.

30%: The Centers for Disease Control has estimated that at least 30% of prescriptions for antibiotics are unnecessary. It notes that, "...most of these unnecessary antibiotics are prescribed for respiratory conditions caused by viruses -- including common colds, viral sore throats, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections -- which do not respond to antibiotics. These 47 million excess prescriptions each year put patients at needless risk for allergic reactions or the sometimes deadly diarrhea, Clostridium difficile." Those prescriptions cost money, too, driving up the cost of healthcare.

5% to 44%: Various studies estimating how often a patient is misdiagnosed have come up with figures ranging from 5% of the time to 44% of the time. The bottom line is that it's not an insignificant frequency, even at 5%.

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Image source: Getty Images.

35%: According to a recent survey by Morning Consult, 35% of people questioned either didn't realize that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Obamacare are the same thing, or weren't sure about it. The same survey found that 45% of respondents didn't realize that if Obamacare were repealed, the ACA would be repealed, too.

26 million: There were about 57 million Americans without health insurance before the ACA took effect. As of early 2017, there were just 26 million uninsured Americans -- reflecting 33 million more people now covered.

114 million: The increase in covered Americans is great, but many remain uninsured for dental care. Recently, more than 114 million Americans had no dental coverage, and with many dental procedures being costly, that puts poorer Americans at great risk of doing without and enduring pain -- not to mention greater risk of further health decline.

738,000: About 738,000 people end up in the emergency room each year due to dental problems, according to the National Association of Dental Plans.

87,000 lives: According to the Department of Health and Human Services, patient-safety initiatives have saved more than 87,000 lives and $20 billion between 2010 and 2014.

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