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Best states for health care

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Best states for health care

The average American spends more than $10,000 on health coverage each year—but what you get for your money depends a lot on where you live. The types of coverage you can receive in each state changes based on how federal subsidies are used and which insurance companies are available. These differences affect what services you can access and what you will pay out-of-pocket. And with single-payer health care gaining steam as a viable idea, it's fairly safe to expect health care will be evolving significantly in the years to come. For now, it's anyone's guess whether the Affordable Care Act will be overturned or stay in place. The answer may end up being different state-by-state.

In order to take a closer look at which U.S. states offer the best health care, Stacker gathered data from a WalletHub analysis of health care ranking each of the 50 states as well as the District of Columbia. The WalletHub rankings, using data from Aug. 6, 2018, were created by scoring various health care factors related to cost, access, and outcomes in each state—as well as surveying health care experts about topics that included insurers, health care reform, and expenditures. Measuring cost included factors, such as average monthly premiums and the cost of a dental visit. Access rankings looked at the state's number of emergency responders, the number of insured adults, and average emergency room wait time. Ranking medical outcomes was a measure of life expectancy, infant mortality, and heart disease rate. How each state scored in terms of cost, access, and outcomes determined its total score.

WalletHub evaluated the results for each state across cost, access, and outcomes based on a 40-metric, weighted system with corresponding points based on a 100-point scale. A score of 100 indicated top-notch health care at the best value. The following 25 states hit the top of the list. Keep reading to find out whether your state made the cut.

You may also like: How much does your state spend on health care?

King of Hearts // Wikimedia Commons

#26. New Jersey

- Score: 55.77
- Cost rank: #12
- Access rank: #41
- Outcomes rank: #23

New Jersey has both good and bad going for it. The state has one of the lowest infant mortality rates, but also one of the highest cancer rates. New Jersey is trying to engage younger people in their health, though, to set an example as they get older. Recently several hospitals came together to have a social aimed at wellness for college students.

likeaduck // Flickr

#25. Delaware

- Score: 56.52
- Cost rank: #9
- Access rank: #38
- Outcomes rank: #25

In spite of most adult Delawareans keeping up with regular doctor visits, the state still battles with high cancer and infant mortality rates. One of the issues Delaware is currently facing is “clawbacks,” where insurance companies are allowed to charge patients a higher copay at the pharmacy than the cost of their prescriptions.

PROPix by Painter // Flickr

#24. Illinois

- Score: 56.79
- Cost rank: #20
- Access rank: #16
- Outcomes rank: #31

Tens of thousands of Illinois residents are currently struggling without access to health care, thanks to a Medicaid backlog. The Chicago-Times reported that more than 112,000 applications are still unprocessed past the government's 45-day limit. When that happens, applicants are supposed to get temporary medical coverage cards—but those are in a backlog, too.


#23. Wisconsin

- Score: 56.90
- Cost rank: #47
- Access rank: #13
- Outcomes rank: #9

Wisconsin is a deeply divided state, especially on topics like health care. Unfortunately, the rural nature of the state exacerbates the problem, making it difficult for the majority of the residents to get easy access to quality care.

Jim // Wikimedia Commons

#22. Virginia

- Score: 56.93
- Cost rank: #21
- Access rank: #29
- Outcomes rank: #17

The governor of Virginia is looking to increase access to quality, affordable health care for everyone in the state. To that end, he's recently vetoed several bills he thought would have a negative impact on Virginia: three that would have deregulated health care, and four that would have scaled back health care mandates.

Andrew Filer // Flickr

#21. North Dakota

- Score: 57.78
- Cost rank: #15
- Access rank: #12
- Outcomes rank: #32

Patients on Medicare in North Dakota have an advantage over all the other states in the country: They benefit by having access to the most physicians in the U.S. who accept Medicare. About 2,000 more families were recently put on a state health care program when the income threshold for families to qualify increased.

Andrea_44 // Wikimedia Commons

#20. Michigan

- Score: 57.98
- Cost rank: #8
- Access rank: #17
- Outcomes rank: #33

Although Michigan has fairly decent health care, the state is still facing problems from obesity, inactive adults, and lower death ages than other parts of the country. Part of the issue is that Michigan spends relatively little on education for health care issues, like vaccinations and screenings.

Tysto // Wikimedia Commons

#19. Ohio

- Score: 58.18
- Cost rank: #7
- Access rank: #18
- Outcomes rank: #34

Ohio ranks near the top of the list for states where most adults have seen a doctor in the last two years, in spite of the state facing a physician shortage. A bill currently under review would help change that by allowing nurse practitioners to do more with patients than they're presently allowed.


#18. Pennsylvania

- Score: 58.34
- Cost rank: #16
- Access rank: #10
- Outcomes rank: #29

Pennsylvania has one of the highest cancer rates in the country, and those patients are worried. They're falling smack into the middle of a duel between two large health care systems in the state. The ongoing battle began in 2011 and puts patients in danger of paying out-of-pocket for costly medical procedures.


#17. New York

- Score: 58.68
- Cost rank: #13
- Access rank: #11
- Outcomes rank: #24

Voters in New York had high hopes that 2019 would be the year of single-payer health care. But legislators that once supported it are now changing their minds, delaying any sort of vote. Meanwhile, the state has some of the most physicians per capita—though comparatively little accept Medicare—and cancer rates are fairly high.

Iulus Ascanius // Wikimedia Commons

#16. Nebraska

- Score: 59.35
- Cost rank: #27
- Access rank: #14
- Outcomes rank: #12

Funding for health care continues to be an issue in Nebraska, according to long-term health care workers at a recent conference. Regulations change frequently and funding is a challenge for an aging population that workers say often goes unnoticed or forgotten.

Garrett // Flickr

#15. Utah

- Score: 59.48
- Cost rank: #25
- Access rank: #34
- Outcomes rank: #6

Utah's relatively high ranking on this list might come as a surprise, given that the state has few hospital beds per capita and few physicians per capita. But the state does have the lowest heart disease rate in the country and the second-lowest monthly insurance premiums. And now, telemedicine is making health care more accessible to everyone in the state.

Jake DeGroot // Wikimedia Commons

#14. South Dakota

- Score: 59.52
- Cost rank: #34
- Access rank: #3
- Outcomes rank: #16

In 2016, South Dakota ranked in the top five states for the usage of telemedicine for health concerns. But by the next year, it sank to the lowest five, with patients opting to use in-person clinics. The switch perhaps has to do with South Dakota ranking in the top five states of physicians accepting Medicare.

Sean Pavone // Shutterstock

#13. Kansas

- Score: 60.20
- Cost rank: #10
- Access rank: #9
- Outcomes rank: #21

Kansas recently had a big change to its health care offerings. The state decided to bypass the Affordable Care Act, allowing insurers to offer health plans that don't cover pre-existing conditions. Now, the governor is hoping to expand Medicaid to low-income adults.

Staib // Wikimedia Commons

#12. Maine

- Score: 61.26
- Cost rank: #35
- Access rank: #1
- Outcomes rank: #15

Health care costs in Maine continue to rise, something that in the past has driven the consolidation of hospital systems and health care facilities. But it's caused a secondary problem as urban hospital systems continue to grow while rural facilities have to cut back.

Elipongo // Wikimedia Commons

#11. Connecticut

- Score: 61.79
- Cost rank: #33
- Access rank: #7
- Outcomes rank: #7

Connecticut's residents care about their teeth: The state ranks top of the list for residents who regularly see a dentist. It's also in the top five states with the most physicians per capita. The state is currently trying to make some changes to mental health care and addiction services by privatizing a portion of each.

Nfutvol // Wikimedia Commons

#10. Maryland

- Score: 61.86
- Cost rank: #2
- Access rank: #28
- Outcomes rank: #28

Maryland may have some of the fewest hospital beds per capita, but the state recently made health care history. In the 2019 Maryland General Assembly, lawmakers established the country's first Prescription Drug Affordability Board and also made strides toward easy enrollment for health insurance through a checkbox on taxes.

Tim Kiser // Wikimedia Commons

#9. Iowa

- Score: 61.94
- Cost rank: #6
- Access rank: #19
- Outcomes rank: #14

Iowa's governor recently signed a law that flies in the face of an Iowa Supreme Court ruling from March. The new law says that public health programs will no longer pay for, or will limit funds for, trans and intersex health care. The Supreme Court ruled this unconstitutional, but the governor signed the law anyway.


#8. District of Columbia

- Score: 62.08
- Cost rank: #1
- Access rank: #6
- Outcomes rank: #36

Washington D.C. has a lot going for it in the health care world: the most hospital beds per capita, the most physicians per capita, some of the most dentists per capita, the second-highest rate of insured adults and children, low cancer rates, and a lot of adults maintaining regular dentist visits. But one doctor says D.C. struggles with health care deserts, where access to services is not as readily available.

FlickreviewR // Wikimedia Commons

#7. Colorado

- Score: 62.69
- Cost rank: #23
- Access rank: #15
- Outcomes rank: #3

Low cancer and heart disease rates are a boon for Colorado, and state lawmakers are trying to make health care there even better. One of the top priorities for 2019 was to make health care costs cheaper, and state legislators have introduced eight different ways to do just that.

Kenneth C. Zirkel // Wikimedia Commons

#6. Rhode Island

- Score: 62.98
- Cost rank: #4
- Access rank: #24
- Outcomes rank: #10

Rhode Island may be struggling with funding for behavioral health and addiction programs, but it still ranks as one of the best states for health care for several reasons. It has some of the lowest monthly insurance premiums, some of the most physicians per capita, and a high number of adults seeing a doctor and dentist regularly.

EyesofParadise // Shuterstock

#5. Hawaii

- Score: 63.08
- Cost rank: #5
- Access rank: #35
- Outcomes rank: #5

Micronesians, who often relocate to Hawaii, struggle more than anyone in the world with tuberculosis and Hansen's disease. Lawmakers in Hawaii are working to improve health care for the population, as many have trouble navigating the health system in the state. And the health system is a good one, with the most dentists per capita in the country and high rates of insured children and adults—though Hawaii ranks dead last for the number of physicians accepting Medicare.

Tony Webster // Wikimedia Commons

#4. Minnesota

- Score: 63.35
- Cost rank: #11
- Access rank: #8
- Outcomes rank: #8

Part of what makes health care in Minnesota so great is a high level of doctors accepting Medicare, high rates of insured adults, and a lot of patients seeking regular dental care. There is, however, a shortage of health care workers—so much so that an entire summit was just dedicated to the issue, held by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, North East Minnesota Office of Job Training, and the City of Duluth Workforce Development.

John Phelan // Wikimedia Commons

#3. New Hampshire

- Score: 64.03
- Cost rank: #24
- Access rank: #4
- Outcomes rank: #4

Six percent of New Hampshire's residents are uninsured, perhaps because of the high costs of health care in the state. But New Hampshire does have low infant mortality rates and high rates of Medicare acceptance.


#2. Massachusetts

- Score: 65.31
- Cost rank: #31
- Access rank: #2
- Outcomes rank: #2

Massachusetts is a health care powerhouse: Out of every state, it has the lowest average insurance premiums. It also has the second most physicians and dentists per capita, the highest amount of insured adults and children, low infant mortality rates, and lots of adults seeking regular dental care. And now the state is protecting health care workers as well by making assaults against them felonies.

Kenneth C. Zirkel // Wikimedia Commons

#1. Vermont

- Score: 66.31
- Cost rank: #3
- Access rank: #23
- Outcomes rank: #1

As the state with the best health care, Vermont also has high rates of insured adults and children, the lowest infant mortality rate in the country, and low heart disease rates. It does, however, have a low number of adults regularly seeing a doctor. It's come a long way from 2014, where the nation's first single-payer health care system spectacularly failed before it even began.

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