In Massachusetts, we’re known for offering a standard of medical care that is among the best in the nation and even the world – patients come from all over for treatment at our hospitals. We’re also known for having some of the nation’s highest medical costs. However, while health care spending in Massachusetts is high in absolute terms, the costs aren’t so out of line when you consider the state’s economy and the quality of care offered.
Health care premiums in Massachusetts are among the lowest in the nation when you adjust for household income, according to research by The Commonwealth Fund. We have the fewest uninsured, best quality of care and most mandatory benefits of any state. But, as we all know, Massachusetts is an expensive place to live. To put things in perspective:
- In Boston, the cost of living is 40 percent higher than the national average, and health insurance is 25 percent higher (according to 2012 data, the latest available).
- Bostonians earn 41 percent more than the national average and Massachusetts’ residents, 18 percent more, as of 2014 (2014 U.S. Census Current Population Survey).
- Family premiums account for 18 percent of median household income in Massachusetts, 3 percent less than the national average (Commonwealth Fund).
- 7 percent of Massachusetts residents are uninsured, compared with 12.2 percent nationally.
After taking all of these factors into consideration, Massachusetts actually ranks 46th out of the 50 states and District of Columbia in terms of health care spending relative to household income, according to The Commonwealth Fund. Even more promising is how Massachusetts has fared over time relative to the rest of the country. Although health care costs have risen nationally, the rate of cost growth in the Commonwealth has decreased dramatically since health care reforms were introduced nearly a decade ago.
None of this means health care costs don’t need curtailing. They do, but the problem of health care costs isn’t unique to Massachusetts and there’s a case to be made that our state has led the way on cost reduction.