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When it comes to the New England states, health care rankings largely tell the story of high quality access and care tied to fairly expensive costs. And for once, New Hampshire isn’t particularly different from its neighbors.

That’s the conclusion of a recent report from financial analysis website WalletHub, “Best & Worst States for Health Care.” A ranking of states using the metrics of cost, access and outcomes placed New Hampshire in third place, not far behind Vermont and Massachusetts, with Rhode Island in sixth, Connecticut 11th and Maine 12th.

And like its fellow New England states, New Hampshire scored very well in access and outcomes – fourth in the nation in each – but not nearly so well in cost, landing at 24th.

Still, New Hampshire did far better than the states in the bottom 10 places in the overall rankings, all of whom faced a dreadful combination of inferior care and even higher costs. Louisiana ranked last overall, with the fourth highest cost and yet the third worst outcomes.

“Today, the average American spends more than $10,000 per year on personal health care, according to the most recent estimates from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services,” WalletHub’s Adam McCann, the report’s author, wrote. “But higher costs don’t necessarily translate to better results. According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the U.S. lags behind several other wealthy nations on several measures, such as health coverage, life expectancy and disease burden, which measures longevity and quality of life.”

New Hampshire legislators often claim that the state has the most expensive health care in the nation – and some calculations do put it near the top – but WalletHub’s analysis broke health care cost into five submetrics, some of which paint the Granite State in a poor light, some of which aren’t too bad at all:

  • In “cost of medical visit,” WalletHub reported that the average in New Hampshire is $145, which ranked 46th in the nation.
  • For “cost of dental visit,” it was $106.67, 44th in the country.
  • In the more promising category was the average monthly insurance premium at $399, sixth lowest in the country.
  • The share of out-of-pocket spending was 12 percent, 11th lowest in the U.S.
  • The share of adults forgoing doctor visits because of cost was 11 percent, 13th lowest in the nation.

In the outcomes and access portions of the report, New Hampshire had quite a few subcategories where it excelled. The state was fourth in nurse practitioners per capita, first in urgent care centers per capita, second in Medicare acceptance rate, third in share of adults with no personal doctor, and second best in infant mortality rate.

Regardless of how well New Hampshire’s health care system might stack up against other states, there’s little question that for some state residents it’s still too expensive. This year’s decision by the Legislature to revamp and reauthorize the Medicaid expansion in the state has drawn both praise and criticism.

“Government's intrusion in our health care is what has made it unaffordable for most folks,” state Rep. Victoria Sullivan R-Manchester, wrote on Twitter recently. “It also made it difficult to find a Primary Care physician. Get government out of our health care.”

But when Republican Gov. Chris Sununu in April lauded the House of Representatives’ passage of the bill that reauthorized Medicaid expansion, he pointed to provisions in the new law designed to mitigate some of the negatives seen in other states.

“We have worked tirelessly over the past several months with our federal partners in Washington to demand increased innovation and flexibility in how our state runs Medicaid program," Sununu said at the time. "The Granite Advantage Health Care Program is a New Hampshire plan that protects taxpayers and the General Fund, saves the federal taxpayers approximately $200 million, provides 50,000 Granite Staters with health care, and stabilizes our individual market.”

It was just a month later, in May, that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved New Hampshire’s work requirement program for Medicaid recipients, which is designed to offer job training and employment opportunities so that able-bodied state residents don’t remain on Medicaid long-term.

Managing Editor

Delphine Luneau is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience. She was the editor of Suburban Life Media when its flagship was named best weekly in Illinois, and she has worked at papers in South Carolina, Indiana, Idaho and New York.