Americans spent $212.2 billion on their health last year, an average of $943 per person and an increase of 12.5 over the previous year.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Patricia Roberts Harris, in yesterday's announcement, said the $212.2 billion health spending for calendar 1979 worked out to 9 percent of the gross national product, the highest proportion ever.
Thirty years ago the figure was only 4.4 percent. But the share of national treasure spent on health has been growing steadily in the post-World War II era, fueled by the growth of employer-provided health insurance and by implementation of Medicare and Medicaid.
The HHS figures show that by far the biggest health cost is hosptials -- $85.3 billion last year. In addition, $40.6 billion went to doctors, $17.8 billion to nursing homes, $17 billion to drugs and $13.6 billion dentists.
HHS calculated that hospital costs went up 12.5 percent from 1978 to 1979. This includes federally run hospitals and state and local psychiatric and longterm-care hospitals, as well as nonfederal acute-care hospitals.
HHS had earlier calculated that 1979 costs for nonfederal acute-care hospitals had risen 13.4 percent, substantially faster than HHS 1979 guidelines of 11.7 percent.
Continued growth of hospital costs beyond the HHS guidelines could help boost a new Carter administration drive for mandatory hospital cost controls.
The cost-control bill was beaten in the House in 1979 after a massive campaign by the Federation of American Hospitals, American Hospital Association and other industry groups that said voluntary cost-control efforts could do the job.
A remarkable feature of the health statistics is the growth of government expenditures for health as a proportion of the total.
In 1950, about a quarter of all health spending came from federal, state or local government sources, and the other three-quarters from private resources. By 1979, however, $406 of the total $943 per person came from government sources -- 43 percent.
In 1979, the federal government paid $61 billion for health state and local governments paid $30.5 billion and insurance companies paid $54 billion. Patients laid out $60 billion from their own pockets.
Medicare and Medicaid -- the two giant federal programs -- amounted to about $51 billion, including state matching funds, or about a quarter of the national health outlay.
And Medicaid, which totaled $29.3 billion, now is as big by itself as all three major federal-state, income-support welfare programs combined (Supplemental Security Income, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and food stamps).