With the average American spending more than $11,000 per year on personal health care, the personal-finance website WalletHub released its report on 2021’s Best & Worst States for Health Care.
To determine where Americans receive the highest-quality services at the best prices, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 44 key measures of health care cost, accessibility, and outcome. The data set ranges from the average monthly insurance premium to physicians per capita to the share of the insured population.
The Experts Weighed in
What tips do you have for a person looking to find the right balance between the cost of premium and level of coverage?
“Sometimes the lowest cost plan upfront is not the best option because it could leave you with hefty medical bills down the road. Generally, a plan with a low premium means that you will pay more out of pocket for medical care in two ways. First, you will have a higher deductible, which you must pay before insurance starts to pay for most care. That deductible can be thousands of dollars in the lowest-priced plans, as the Bronze plans on the ACA marketplaces. Second, even after the deductible, you will pay more in copayments when you use care, like $25 per visit or 10% of total visit costs. If you do not anticipate using any, or much, medical care, the lowest-priced premium plan might be okay for you. But you should keep reserves to pay for an emergency in case one occurs so that you can get care if you need it,” said Allison K. Hoffman, a professor of law at Penn Law School University of Pennsylvania.
“For consumers who wish to buy a health insurance plan through an employer (group insurance) or independently through the market exchanges (individual insurance), there is an importation tradeoff between a lower premium and a lower generosity of coverage. One important consideration to find the right balance is how many health care services do you plan to use? If you are relatively healthy and do not have any chronic conditions (e.g., asthma) that require purchasing prescription drugs every month, you have more options in terms of whether to choose a “lower premium, less generous” plan or a “higher premium, more generous” plan, ”said Gilbert Gimm, Ph.D., an associate professor at George Mason University.
What measures can local authorities take to better support hospitals and healthcare providers as the pandemic progresses?
“Local authorities can support hospitals’ and providers’ decisions on COVID safety, such as keeping mask mandates in place and requiring employees to be vaccinated. They can also be responsive in taking the need for new safety measures themselves when necessary and appropriate, considering, for example, a local spike in cases and new variants like Delta that appear more contagious. And we all—whether authorities or not—can continue to voice support for the heroic work providers have been doing,” Hoffman said.
“They can demand state and federal action to take accountability for identifying which doctors and hospitals are needed and to make sure they are paid enough to remain—or to go—where they are needed,” said Alan Sager, Ph.D. professor at Boston University School of Public Health.
What are the major issues facing healthcare in 2021?
“Certainly, number one is increasing Covid-19 vaccination…After vaccination, I think the issues continue to be what we refer to as the Quadruple Aim for health care – reduce cost, improve population health (quality of care), improve patient care experiences (so they are patient-centered, inclusive, equitable and embrace the diversity of our population) and improve the workforce experience. If we do not take care of health care workers – from our physicians, nurses, therapist, and other clinicians to our food service, transportation, and janitorial staff – we cannot sustainably achieve the other aims,” said Ingrid Nembhard, Ph.D., MS, an associate professor, at the University of Pennsylvania.
“The growth in healthcare prices, especially in hospital care, will continue to pose challenges to consumers. The second, and maybe obvious challenge, is COVID and the consequences of prolonged symptoms from a COVID infection, known as Long COVID. The long-term consequences of Long COVID are unknown but it could quickly increase the number of people with chronic conditions for years to come,” said Benjamin Ukert, an assistant professor, at Texas A&M University.