- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Residents of New England and the Middle Atlantic states account for the lion’s share of U.S. health care spending, a federal report found.

The difference in health care spending between people living in Western states such as Utah and those who live in the Northeast is the result of many factors including the number of elderly among states’ populations and the distribution of doctors and hospitals.

The report, published in the journal Health Affairs, was prepared by federal health care researchers from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The data in the report shows disparities in health care spending by state from 1998 to 2004, the most recent year for which spending data is available.

Massachusetts, Maine, New York, Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Pennsylvania spent an average of $6,345 per person in 2004, nearly 20 percent higher than the national average of $5,283.

“Most of these states have consistently had the highest spending over time,” said Anne Martin, a co-author of the report and economist with CMS. “There are several similar characteristics among these states.”

Those similarities include a high concentration of physicians and hospitals, making it convenient for people to access health care. These states also rank very high in personal income.

The District spent $8,295 per person, ranking highest in health care spending. However, researchers said that is not a surprise given the city’s high density, which leads to more speciality facilities and expensive hospitals.

Western states Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada, spent the least on health care, averaging $4,244 per person. These states are less populous and residents have less access and availability to physicians and hospitals because of the rural landscape.

In addition, these states have a much younger population than states in the Northeast and the Middle Atlantic. In Utah, the state with the lowest median age (28) per person health care spending was only $3,972. By comparison, Massachusetts spent $6,683, the highest amount.

The gap between the states with the highest spending and the lowest fell by five percentage points from 1991 through 1998, the years for which CMS conducted the previous study. Narrowing the spending gap appears to be a result of a reduction in the number of health maintenance organizations, or HMOs, in the late 1990s.

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