More Americans have access to health care today, but cost and quality vary widely from state to state. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, state health costs depend on a number of factors, ranging from federal legislation to the overall health of residents to the number of “public charges” such as prisoners and recipients of social assistance. And often, policy makers have no hand in determining or swaying the amounts that residents shell out for health expenditures.
For every American, that amount is about $9,523 annually and expected to rise in the coming years, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. In 2014, health spending accounted for 17.5 percent of national GDP. By 2025, that figure will increase by an estimated 2.6 percent. An international comparison of health expenses reveals that Americans even pay the highest for certain prescription drugs and some common medical procedures compared with patients in other wealthy countries. At $15,930, the average price tag of an appendectomy in the U.S., for instance, is nearly double the charge in the U.K. and almost eight times as high as in Spain.
But higher costs don’t necessarily translate to better care and treatment here at home. The Kaiser Family Foundation found in its latest analysis of global health care quality that the U.S. remains outperformed by several of its peers “on a large number of measures,” despite improved performance in others. In particular, the U.S. lags in “life expectancy at birth; cost-related barriers to health care access; the prevalence of retained surgical items or unretrieved device fragments; and burden of disease, which takes into account years of life lost due to premature death and years of life lost to poor health or disability.”
With the future of American health care in question as major changes — such as the recent pullout of some large insurers from state-sponsored exchanges and the introduction of “telehealth” — sweep the industry, WalletHub’s analysts measured the impact of geography on our treatment and pocketbooks to determine the best state health care systems. We compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across three key dimensions, including health care costs, access and outcomes. Continue reading below for our findings, expert commentary and a full description of our methodology.
Major insurers such as Aetna, Humana and UnitedHealthcare recently announced their exit from state-sponsored insurance exchanges while the uninsured rate has fallen to a historic low, bringing into question the cost and quality of health care in America. With such developments in mind, the personal-finance website WalletHub conducted an in-depth analysis of 2016’s States with the Best & Worst Health Care.
In order to determine which states offer the most cost-effective and highest-quality care, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 29 key metrics. Our data set ranges from “average monthly insurance premium” to “number of physicians per capita” to “percentage of adults and children with health-insurance coverage.”
Best vs. Worst Health Care
- Minnesota has the lowest average monthly insurance premium, $234, which is 2.4 times lower than in Alaska, where the premium is highest, $567.
- The District of Columbia has the highest number of hospital beds per 1,000 residents, 6.97, which is 3.4 times higher than in Oregon, where the number is lowest, 2.05.
- The District of Columbia has the highest number of physicians per 100,000 residents, 849.3, which is 4.6 times higher than in Mississippi, where the number is lowest, 184.7.
- Massachusetts has the highest number of dentists per 100,000 residents, 52.12, which is 3.4 times higher than in Tennessee, where the number is lowest, 15.50.
- California has the highest retention rate for medical residents, 69.8 percent, which is 4.5 times higher than in the District of Columbia, where the rate is lowest, 15.4 percent.
- California has the lowest number of infant mortalities per 1,000 births, 4.30, which is two times lower than in Alabama, where the number is highest, 8.68.
- Colorado has the lowest percentage of adults who have had a stroke, 1.7 percent, which is 2.7 times lower than in Arkansas, where the percentage is highest, 4.6 percent.
- Kentucky and West Virginia share the lowest percentage of at-risk adults without a routine doctor visit in the past two years, 10.3 percent, which is 1.7 times lower than in Vermont, where the number is highest, 17.7 percent.
- Massachusetts has the lowest percentage of adults without a dental visit in the past year, 25.3 percent, which is 1.8 lower than in West Virginia, where the percentage is highest, 45.1 percent.