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Northeast spends most on healthcare

September 18, 2007|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Staying healthy is a costly business in the United States, particularly in the Northeast, government statistics show.

Annual healthcare spending per person totaled $6,409 in New England and $6,151 in the rest of the Northeast, compared with a national average of $5,283, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported in the journal Health Affairs.

The totals include spending on individual healthcare from all sources, including insurance, personal expenses, Medicare, Medicaid and other sources, for 2004, the most recent figures available.

Highest per-capita spending was recorded in the District of Columbia, $8,295, followed by Massachusetts, $6,683; Maine, $6,540; and New York, $6,535.

"Most of these states have consistently had the highest spending over time," said report co-author Anne Martin, an economist with the Medicare and Medicaid agency's Office of the Actuary. "There is no one clear explanation, but there are several similar characteristics among these states."

For example, many of the states have high personal income and a high concentration of physicians and are among the states with the lowest rates of uninsured.

Healthcare spending was below the national average in the Southwest and Rocky Mountain regions, which also tend to have lower-than-average per-enrollee Medicare and Medicaid spending and, because they are more rural, less access to physicians and hospitals.

The only state outside the Northeast where per-capita health spending topped $6,000 was Alaska at $6,450.

The lowest spending per person was $3,972 in Utah.

Nationally, per-capita health spending rose 6.3% between 1998 and 2004, the report said.

Other findings:

Two states that have actively worked to improve healthcare had widely different spending patterns. California's per-capita spending was 12% below the national average at $4,638, and Massachusetts' was nearly 27% above the average.

California had a below-average percentage of the population under age 65, an above-average share of the uninsured population and a higher proportion of residents enrolled in health maintenance organizations in 2004 compared with Massachusetts.

States with generous Medicaid programs also tended to have the highest spending, such as Massachusetts, New York and Maine.

However, the number of people enrolled in Medicaid doesn't affect per-capita spending levels. For example, New York and New Mexico have larger-than-average populations that receive Medicaid. New York was among the highest Medicaid spenders on healthcare; New Mexico was among the lowest.

Florida has the highest percentage of residents over age 65, and the state's Medicare spending per enrollee was among the highest in the nation, $8,462, compared with the U.S. average of $7,439. Although Maine also has a higher-than-average proportion of elderly people, its Medicare per-enrollee spending was among the lowest, $6,015.

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