The healthcare system in the United States is one of the most expensive in the world, and it spends more on healthcare than all the other wealthy countries in the world relative to the size of its economy. But despite the high cost of healthcare in the U.S., it doesn't necessarily mean that the quality of care is better than in other countries. In fact, some indicators suggest it lags behind as certain health metrics are worse. For instance, the U.S. has a higher infant mortality rate and prevalence of obesity and a lower life expectancy than most wealthy nations. It also has a shorter life expectancy than many of its peers.
In 2020, total U.S. healthcare spending reached $4.1 trillion. This equates to just under $12,000 for each citizen. Yet the figures for other comparable countries are much lower. For example, France spends $5,564 per person, Germany spends $6,731, and the United Kingdom spends $5,268.
Life expectancy is a good indicator of population health. In comparable countries, the average life expectancy is 80.7 years, yet this dips to 78.6 in the U.S.
Many factors contribute to the high healthcare costs in the U.S., including an aging population and the increasing cost of medications and medical services. However, figures show that the costs and standards of this care vary considerably from state to state.
The best states for healthcare
NiceRx analyzes hospitals in all 50 U.S. states based on their quality of care, safety records, and access to care. They award each state a score based on the following factors:
- Percentage of hospitals in the state that received an "A" grade in safety from The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade. The grade considers metrics such as responsiveness of hospital staff, patient feedback, and taking measures to reduce prescribing errors. It also considers safety errors like leaving foreign objects inside patients after surgery.
- The number of hospitals on the U.S. News Best Hospitals Honor Roll of 20 hospitals. These facilities excel in the evaluated care and receive points for rankings and specialties. The top scorers made the Honor Roll.
- The number of hospitals in Healthgrades' top 50. Healthgrades provides the most accurate and comprehensive information about doctors and hospitals.
- Number of hospitals for every 1 million residents
- Number of staffed hospital beds for every 1 million residents
According to the scoring, here are the five best states for healthcare:
Pennsylvania, also known as the Quaker state, is located in the northeastern United States and is the fifth-most populous state, with a population of almost 13 million.
It takes the top spot with a healthcare score of 8.04 out of 10. It has some of the best hospitals in the country, with the Hospitals of the University of Pennsylvania-Penn Presbyterian in Philadelphia on the honor roll.
Four others are within America's Top 50:
- Lancaster General Hospital
- Chester County Hospital
- Lankenau Medical Center
- Reading Hospital
It also has 2671.5 staffed beds and 13.8 hospitals per 1 million residents.
Pennsylvania spent $2,370 on healthcare per citizen in 2018. Although it ranks first for healthcare, this is the 18th highest amount of money of all states.
Illinois is known as the Land of Lincoln, honoring the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, who was elected there. It's located in the Midwest and is the sixth most populous state, with a population of nearly 12.7 million.
The state has a healthcare score of 7.96 out of 10, bringing it to second place. It's home to excellent hospitals and some of the best in the country. Two of which are on the U.S. News honor roll — Rush University Medical Center and Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Both are located in Chicago.
Four hospitals are within America's Top 50:
- Carle Foundation Hospital
- Palos Community Hospital
- AMITA Health Alexian Brothers Medical Center Elk Grove Village
- AMITA Health Resurrection Medical Center Chicago
Although the safety standard of just 28.5% of hospitals achieving an "A" grade is less impressive, Illinois more than makes up for this with 13,516 staffed beds per million residents, which is the highest of any state.
Illinois spent just $1,504 on healthcare per person in 2018. This is the ninth-lowest amount across all states.
The birthplace of aviation, Ohio, is a state in the Midwestern region with a population of nearly 11.8 million.
It's the second runner-up with a state healthcare score of 7.16. Over a third of its hospitals achieved "A" grades in safety. There's one hospital, the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic, on the honor roll and four in the top 50 in America:
- Bethesda North Hospital
- Christ Hospital
- Mercy Health - Fairfield Hospital
- ProMedica Toledo Hospital
Ohio residents benefit from 12.6 hospitals per 1,000,000 people, so there's a good chance that people can find necessary healthcare close to home.
Ohio spent $2,527 on healthcare for each citizen's health, the 11th highest in the states.
The great lake state of Michigan is located in the upper Midwestern United States. It has a population of just over 10 million.
Michigan comes in fourth with a state healthcare score of 6.88 out of 10. It has excellent hospitals, with 3 in America's top 50 and 1 on the honor roll. Furthermore, over 42% of hospitals are rated "A" for safety.
The state also has good healthcare access with 2279.8 staffed beds per 1,000,000 people.
Michigan spent just $1,900 on healthcare per resident in 2018, the second-lowest on this list and the 21st lowest compared to all states.
Massachusetts, officially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is a Northeastern state, home to almost 7 million people.
The bay state made the top five list thanks to its two honor roll hospitals, Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital, and one, the Lahey Hospital and Medical Center, in America's top 50.
It also boasts an excellent safety record, with over half of its hospitals achieving an "A" grade in safety.
Regarding access, there are 10.2 hospitals and 2,113 staffed beds per 1,000,000 residents. Overall, Massachusetts achieved a 6.48 state healthcare score.
Massachusetts spent $3,082 for each person's healthcare in 2018, the highest on this list and the fifth-highest in the United States.