Is there a correlation between how much a state spends on health care and access to care?

More spending can equal better access, but there are large discrepancies among states.

A study from Assurance examined state spending on health care and compared it to the number of providers per 10,000 residents to see if there was a correlation between spending and access.

The state average for health care expenditure per person is $10,477, and the average number ofhealth care providers per 10,000 people is 45.3. However, depending on the location, the state numbers could vary widely from the average.

For example, the District of Columbia spends $14,381 per resident, while Utah spends $7,522 per resident. Massachusetts has the most providers at 89 per 10,000 residents, while Alabama ranks last with 22.8.

The study found that for the most part, the more money a state spends on health care, the better the access to providers, with the converse also being true. For example, Massachusetts, Alaska, and Washington D.C. have the most providers per person and the expenditure to match, with all three spending more than $13,000 per resident and having over 80 care providers per 10,000 residents. Texas, Georgia, and Alabama have low expenditures and equally fewer care providers. For these three states, spending is just under $10,000 per person, with less than 30 providers for every 10,000 residents. Texas spent $8,406 with only 25 providers for each 10,000 residents. In some high-needs populations, the doctor-to-patient ratio is one for every 3,000 residents.

There are three states that have positive gaps between spending and access: Utah, Washington, and Colorado, according to the report. All three spend less than the national average, but have more trained care providers per 10,000 residents. Utah, for example, spends $7,522 annually – 28% less than the national average – while having 48 providers per 10,000 residents.

Delaware, South Dakota, and West Virginia, by comparison, trend in the other direction. All three states have higher health care costs and limited access to care providers compared to the national average. Each state spends about 20% more on health care than other areas of the country while having 10% or fewer providers per 10,000 residents on average. West Virginia has the highest disparity of the three, spending 22% more on health care costs and having 37% fewer providers per 10,000 people.

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