National health care spending trends have been tracked through the federal governmental for much of the latter half of the 20th century. A review of these spending trends illustrates not only health care's contribution to the overall national economy, but more importantly it allows us to assess our priorities for spending that money. Nursing has long sought information about the "cost" of its care, at the micro-level, and has desired to articulate its share of national expenditures, at the macro-level. This quest has been fueled largely by the profession's desire to more accountably argue the value of its services. This article reviews national health expenditure trends, and explores how the analysis of these trends can be used to shape nursing's own research agenda for assessing the value of its services.