NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Health Care Costs: A State-by-State Comparison

April 12, 2013

Health care spending in the United States averaged $6,815 per person in 2009. But that figure varies significantly across the country, for reasons that go beyond the relative healthiness, or unhealthiness, of residents in each state, says the Wall Street Journal.

  • The states that spend the most on health care for each resident are mostly in the Northeast.
  • They are led by Massachusetts, a fact several Republicans used to criticize GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney during the 2012 primaries because as governor Mr. Romney signed the state's health care overhaul into law.
  • But Connecticut and Maine also have significant spending, and Maine's expenditures were some of the fastest-growing in the past two decades.
  • Experts generally attribute the region's higher spending to its higher cost of living, greater proportion of elderly residents and number of high-profile hospitals.

Expansive, sparsely populated states such as Alaska and North Dakota also have high spending. Their representatives often attribute this to care delivery being more expensive under their conditions.

Big-spending states had some of the highest per-person spending on hospital care and doctors' services, which make up the bulk of medical costs.

  • But in dental services, Washington state had the highest per-person spending in 2009.
  • Florida was among the states with high prescription drug spending.

Utah has the lowest spending, a fact its governors have often boasted of. Most experts attribute this to the state's relatively young and healthy population. The state has particularly low spending on hospital care and doctors' services.

Source: Louise Radnofsky, "Health Care Costs: A State-by-State Comparison," Wall Street Journal, April 8, 2013.


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