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Report identifies where health care spending is highest and lowest Posted: August 24th, 2011

By Maryalene LaPonsie

Maryalene LaPonsie has been writing professionally for more than a decade on topics that include education, insurance and personal finance. She holds a bachelor's degree in political science from Western Michigan University.

A recent report highlights the differences in health care spending across U.S. communities. Completed by the firm Thomson Reuters, the analysis considered total health care spending for individuals covered by commercial health insurance plans. A total of 382 metropolitan statistical areas were assessed and while some states were represented several times in the study results, high or low health care spending does not appear be a regional phenomenon.

Cities with the highest health care spending

Researchers considered a number of different spending categories including inpatient care, outpatient care and prescription drugs. However, when it came to total spending per person, Anderson, Ind. had the highest health care costs in the nation. According to Thomson Reuters, $7,231 is spent annually on each individual enrolled in an employer-sponsored health insurance plan.

When it comes to high health care spending, the top ten list includes communities from across the country:

  1. Anderson, Ind. - $7,231
  2. Punta Gorda, Fla. - $7,168
  3. Racine, Wis. - $6,528
  4. Naples-Marco Island, Fla. - $6,312
  5. Ocean City, N.J. - $6,128
  6. Barnstable Town, Mass. - $6,123
  7. Flint, Mich. - $6,061
  8. Lake Havasu City-Kingman, Ariz. - $5,977
  9. Ocala, Fla. - $5,976
  10. Carson City, Nev. - $5,931

McAllen, Texas drops from top to bottom when it comes to spending

After a Dartmouth Atlas Project analysis of Medicare spending, McAllen, Texas received the dubious distinction of being considered the most expensive place in the nation for health care. However, the Thomson Reuters report paints a very different picture of medical spending in the Texas town. When it comes to health care spending for those covered by commercial health insurance coverage, the city was found to be in one of the least expensive metropolitan areas.

McAllen was seventh on the list of lowest-spending areas. Ogden-Clearfield, Utah was number one on the list:

  1. Ogden-Clearfield, Utah - $2,623
  2. Dubuque, Iowa - $2,719
  3. Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Ark./Mo. - $2,762
  4. Fort Smith, Ark./Okla. - $2,916
  5. Laredo, Texas - $2,919
  6. Amarillo, Texas - $2,942
  7. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas - $2,950
  8. Salt Lake City, Utah - $2,979
  9. Fargo, N.D. - $2,996
  10. Sioux City, Iowa - $3,029

"Studying these geographic variations can help us identify locations where health care costs are less, yet the quality of care and outcomes are not compromised," said Ray Fabius, M.D., one of the report's authors, in a prepared statement. "Understanding where, why, and how medical care costs less can provide solutions to control our nation's healthcare spending,"