Yoiks.  Total spending on health care in the US reached nearly $2 trillion in 2004—meaning that roughly one out of every six dollars the nation earns is now siphoned off to pay for medical care.  The growth in health care spending slowed a bit from 2003 to 2004, but medical expenses still grew much faster than the economy overall.  Spending per person across the country averaged $6,280. 

From what I can tell, spending in the Pacific Northwest states is a bit lower than the US average.  In 2000, the most recent year for which state-level data are available, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho’s health care expenditures, measured as a share of the states’ economic output, were about 10 percent below the national average.  Still, medical care is a huge expense; about $38 billion was spent on medical care in Washington, Oregon and Idaho in 2000 alone.  Given the pace of medical inflation over the last 5 years, that figure has probably topped $50 billion, combined, in the three states.

What all this means is that steps that could shave health care costs, even by just a few fractions of a percent, can reduce overall health care costs by literally hundreds of millions of dollars.