A lot of attention has been placed on the large variation in healthcare costs across the US. These 10 cities have the most affordable care with residents spending up to 70% less than the national average.
A lot of attention has been placed on the large variation in healthcare costs across the US. Last May, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a database that revealed that prices didn’t just vary state to state, but costs could vary greatly between towns just a dozen miles apart.
Plan pricing in the insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act also revealed how wide the price disparity is across the country with some regions paying premiums topping $400 a month and others as cheap as $154 a month.
Healthcare expenses have always been difficult for Americans to handle. The doctor’s bill is often one of the last paid and many Americans have admitted to delaying care because they couldn’t afford the costs.
Livability.com has found the top cities that offer some relief. These cities have low healthcare expenses, good access to hospitals, doctors and other providers, and an excellent quality of life.
The site ranked the top cities for affordable health care by considering such factors as average per capita spending on healthcare, number of area hospitals, number of primary care physicians (PCPs) per capita and the number of premature deaths.
Livability.com also considered things like entertainment, dining, recreation, walkability, income and climate, all of which make a city an enjoyable place to live.
10. Burien, Washington
Median household income: $52,964
Median home price: $225,000
Cost of heart valve surgery: $54,234
New patient visit (minor problem): $91
Three Tree Point in Burien. Photo by Ryan Lang.
There may be just one major medical center in Burien, but it has a high ratio of PCPs to residents (1:887). Burien is just 15 minutes south of Seattle, which means there’s plenty nearby, but Burien has its own attractions, according to Livability. With regional trails, parks and a community garden, it shouldn’t be tough to stay health in Burien.
9. Grand Rapids, Michigan
Median household income: $39,044
Median home price: $81,383
Cost of heart valve surgery: $47,207
New patient visit (minor problem): $80
Downtown. Photo by Rachel Kramer.
The cost for healthcare in Grand Rapids is 31% less than the national average, probably because there’s strong competition in the area with 12 local hospitals (three of which hold national rankings). While the ratio of PCPs to residents isn’t quite as good as Burien’s, it’s still high (1:1,129). Roughly 13% of the population actually doesn’t have health insurance, though. Perhaps they don’t need it, though, since they live several years longer than half of the country’s population. Who wouldn’t, though, in a community that has beaches on Lake Michigan, 1,600 acres of parkland within the city, summer festivals and a vibrant downtown?
8. Lincoln, Nebraska
Median household income: $50,398
Median home price: $128,000
Cost of heart valve surgery: $46,672
New patient visit (minor problem): $77
Downtown, Photo by Collin Ulness.
With 30 hospitals, Lincoln has the highest total for a city on the top 10 list. Choice keeps medical expenses low, plus the city has a clean environmental record and recreational activities to make living there enjoyable. Healthcare isn’t the only thing affordable, with a cost of living that’s 6% below the national average, and an unemployment rate at 2.9% Lincoln is a great place to work and live.
7. Albany, New York
Median household income: $39,567
Median home price: $145,000
Cost of heart valve surgery: $45,366
New patient visit (minor problem): $79
With 10 hospitals serving the area, the cost of healthcare in Albany is 22% below the national average. The city has historic charm (buildings in downtown date back to the 1700s) and is located just an hour south of the Adirondacks for those who want to be active. However, New York State has one of the worst tax climates in the country.
6. Charlottesville, Virginia
Median household income: $42,483
Median home price: $218,400
Cost of heart valve surgery: $46,721
New patient visit (minor problem): $82
Downtown Mall. Photo by Bobak Ha’Eri.
At 1:392, Charlottesville has the highest ratio in the top 10 of PCPs to residents. Competition is so strong in the Charlottesville area that the average consumer spends 71% less than the nation’s average. The city is home to the University of Virginia, which explains the young vibe (median age is 29) and the many recreational activities regardless of the season: hiking, kayaking, snowboarding, pumpkin picking, and wine tasting are all popular ways to spend the weekends.
Plus, the city is 2 hours south of Washington, D.C. and one hour west of Richmond in case residents feel the need to get out of town.
5. Hartford, Connecticut
Median household income: $29,208
Median home price: $110,000
Cost of heart valve surgery: $58,690
New patient visit (minor problem): $90
Nearly smack dab in the middle of Boston and New York City (an hour-and-a-half and two hours away, respectively), Hartford has 8 area hospitals, but 17% of the local population is uninsured, according to Livability.com. That high uninsured population might have to do with the city’s young age: like Charlottesville, the median age is 29 years.
4. Portland, Maine
Median household income: $44,807
Median home price: $239,375
Cost of heart valve surgery: $49,322
New patient visit (minor problem): $84
Portland has one of the highest ratios of PCPs to residents (1:655), plus 8 hospitals, so residents spend 19% less on healthcare than the rest of the country. Life in Portland means cobblestone streets, ocean views with sunbathing in the summer and skiing in the winter.
3. Mankato, Minnesota
Median household income: $40,779
Median home price: $139,500
Cost of heart valve surgery: $46,572
New patient visit (minor problem): $82
Riverfront Drive Commercial District. Photo by Bobak Ha’Eri.
Just about anywhere in Minnesota would mean affordable health care: according to Kaiser Health News, the majority of the state has some of the cheapest health insurance markets. Mankato has 12 area hospitals and a low number of premature death cases, plus residents spend 22% less on care than the national average. If the vibrant downtown doesn’t have enough to do, then there are 60 parks and 50 miles of paved trails in the Greater Mankato area.
2. Morgantown, West Virginia
Median household income: $21,519
Median home price: $155,000
Cost of heart valve surgery: $45,138
New patient visit (minor problem): $75
With a median age of 24, Morgantown is the youngest city in the top 10. However, it also has the lowest median household income, by far, so it’s a good thing residents spend 34% less on healthcare compared to the national average. The largest healthcare system in the area is affiliated with West Virginia University.
Morgantown stands apart from the rest of the state. A new Gallup poll just revealed that West Virginia is last in well-being, which is measured by six sub-indexes: life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physicial health, health behaviors and access to basic needs.
1. Iowa City, Iowa
Median household income: $41,866
Median home price: $165,000
Cost of heart valve surgery: $47,696
New patient visit (minor problem): $76
Downtown. Photo by Bill Whittaker.
Not only is the ratio of PCPs to residents high (1:634) in Iowa City, but so is the ratio of dentists to residents (1:532). There are 14 hospitals serving the area and residents spend 17% less on healthcare than the rest of the country. Perhaps the reason the cost of care is so low is because the city is health thanks to city parks, trails, the Iowa River and the fact that many businesses offer their employees discounts to fitness facilities.