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  • Writer's pictureLaura Sesana

Health Cost Index Reveals Most Expensive States

Updated: Feb 5, 2019

WASHINGTON—Healthcare costs in the U.S. are higher than in any other industrialized nation, with Americans spending a greater percentage of their wealth on healthcare than their counterparts in other countries. Additionally, U.S. healthcare has consistently been ranked below wealthy European nations, Canada and Australia on most performance dimensions including quality, access, efficiency, and equity.

One unique aspect of the U.S. healthcare system is that it is difficult for patients to know how much it will cost to treat a particular condition beforehand, because health care providers do not provide pricing information on many procedures until after the procedure has been completed. Because prices are not disclosed, patients cannot compare the services of one provider to those of another.

Prices can vary significantly for particular procedures or to treat certain conditions according to the region, the healthcare provider and the insurer paying for the procedure. However, there is often no way for individuals to know exactly how much prices vary. In an effort to increase transparency in healthcare the online consumer health site BetterDoctor created procedure cost pages that predict prices for over 100 procedures throughout the U.S.

Using data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a study by BetterDoctor developed a health care cost index that compares the cost to treat four representative conditions (diabetes, asthma and bronchitis, pacemaker installation and seizures) in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Maryland was excluded because it reports fewer types of payments.

Based on these prices, analysts developed a healthcare cost index and ranks each state from the most expensive (New Jersey) to the least (West Virginia) expensive for medical care.

Authors warn that the study is not meant to be a comprehensive assessment of all healthcare costs, but that the four procedures selected should serve as a representative guide to healthcare pricing in each state. The study also found that states were generally consistent in pricing across the four procedures, meaning that if treatment for seizures was expensive, diabetes treatment was likely to be expensive as well.

It is also important to note, as the authors do, that the average covered charges represent the amount billed to an individual without insurance and is higher than what insurers and Medicare would pay.

Health Cost Index Reveals Most Expensive States
Sean Campbell, Flickr Creative Commons

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