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Cheapest Health Insurance Not Always in Healthiest States Posted: March 30th, 2010

By Joe Taylor Jr.

Joe Taylor Jr. is an internal business consultant for a Fortune 500 company, who writes about finance, culture, and design. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Communications from Ithaca College.

Is your state among the best places for wellness?

The American Human Development Project compiled government statistics on health, education, and income into a set of indexes and analyzed them. Blending all three indicators through a formula, based on similar research conducted by the United Nations, produced the American Human Development Index (ADHI). Like a Dow Jones Index for American wellness, the ADHI can pinpoint successes and struggles in communities throughout the country.

Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States Rank Among High in Wellness

Connecticut and Massachusetts locked up in a photo finish for first and second place on the Human Development (HD) index, which measures the overall wellness of each state. Connecticut enjoyed a slight edge in both income and life expectancy over Massachusetts. Third place District of Columbia (D.C.) may show that education plays an important role in wellness. Although 16.4 percent of D.C. residents don't have a high school diploma, think tanks, law firms, and government organizations attract highly educated professionals to the region, pushing the percentage of residents with bachelor's degrees to 45.3 percent--the highest in the survey.

Southern States Have the Lowest Wellness Rates on the ADHI

Mississippi ranked last on the ADHI's state-by-state wellness list. Rural states often ranked lower on the ADHI, despite access to state-supported, free health insurance programs. Education and income correlate with overall life expectancy, according to the ADHI's indexing system. Poverty and unemployment in disaster-damaged parts of the country impacted those states' overall scores.

American Human Development Index, State by State

Although states' individual scores on the wellness index ranged from 5.5 to 3.3, many of the biggest differences between states occurred in the education and income indexes. For instance, D.C. scored a high of 7.9 in education, while West Virginia and Mississippi scored the low of 3.8. Likewise, the income index ranged from a high of 7.2 in D.C. to Montana's low score of 3.6.

According to the ADHI HD index, the states ranked by greatest overall wellness as follows:

  1. Connecticut
  2. Massachusetts
  3. District of Columbia
  4. New Jersey
  5. Maryland
  6. Hawaii
  7. New York
  8. New Hampshire
  9. Minnesota
  10. Rhode Island
  11. California
  12. Colorado
  13. Virginia
  14. Illinois
  15. Vermont
  16. Washington
  17. Alaska
  18. Delaware
  19. Wisconsin
  20. Michigan
  21. Iowa
  22. Pennsylvania
  23. Nebraska
  24. Florida
  25. Kansas
  26. Arizona
  27. North Dakota
  28. Oregon
  29. Maine
  30. Utah
  31. Ohio
  32. Georgia
  33. Indiana
  34. North Carolina
  35. Texas
  36. Missouri
  37. Nevada
  38. South Dakota
  39. Wyoming
  40. New Mexico
  41. Idaho
  42. Montana
  43. South Carolina
  44. Kentucky
  45. Tennessee
  46. Oklahoma
  47. Alabama
  48. Arkansas
  49. Louisiana
  50. West Virginia
  51. Mississippi

Cheap Medical Insurance Aligns with Ability to Pay, Not Overall Wellness

Recent data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) suggests that wellness is often linked to health insurance rates. For example, the state with the highest overall wellness score on the ADHI belongs to Connecticut, where the KFF data shows that families and their employers often pay more than $13,436 per year for comprehensive health coverage. Therefore, residents of the state with the highest wellness score receive the fifth most expensive health insurance.

The situation in Mississippi tells a different story. Residents there actually contribute more individually than residents of Connecticut, about $400 more per average family. However, employers in the state with the lowest relative wellness actually pay about 25 percent less than employers in Connecticut. KFF researcher may suggest that this lack of employer support contributes to the state's poor health ranking. The cheapest health insurance in the country belongs to Idaho residents, who ranked 41st on the ADHI.

Joe Taylor Jr.