Health care spending

(The Center Square) – A recent study by MoneyGeek ranked Washington the No. 10 state in the nation for overall health care quality.

The personal finance education website looked at three major factors in determining its rankings: outcomes, cost, and access via data gathered from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization focusing on national health issues, and the federal Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

“The state's Outcomes which are a measure of a variety of factors (preventable death rates, life expectancy, obesity rates, smoking rates, opioid hospital admissions) are very positive,” explained Doug Milnes, head of marketing and communications for MoneyGeek, in an email to The Center Square.

The Evergreen State ranked No. 9 in outcomes.

“The one that stood out to me is that the rate of opioid related hospital admissions was in the top 20th percentile,” Milnes pointed out.

Opioid use, morbidity, and mortality have increased across Washington state, according to the University of Washington’s Addiction, Drug & Alcohol Institute

The institute notes, “crime lab data for police evidence testing indicate a 186% increase in the number of cases positive for opioids statewide between 2002-2004 and 2018-2020, with increases in most counties.”

As a result, opioid-related deaths have significantly increased.

“Drug-caused deaths involving opioids increased 71% statewide between 2003-2005 and 2018-2020, with increases in most counties,” the institute reported. “These increases in counts far exceed population growth.”

Washington state also fared well in terms of cost, coming in at No. 6 on that front.

“Our analysis found that the cost of the healthcare system in WA was one of the best in the country in terms of low costs,” Milne said. “The two components to this factor are Washington's low average cost to private health insurance, and the state government spending on health (taxpayer dollars) which was middle of the road.”

The average annual cost of private health care premiums in Washington is $4,927, compared to the national average of $5,752, he noted. That translated into a No. 7 ranking out of the 50 states, with 50 being the most expensive, Milnes said.

Government spends $38.7 billion on health care programs in Washington, he added, ranking No. 26 in the nation.

Milnes added 35.2% of Washington’s population is on government-provided insurance and 6.6% are uninsured.

The Evergreen State stumbled a bit in the access category.

“Where Washington ranks low in our analysis is Access to healthcare 38th,” Milnes stated. “Drivers for this ranking [are] a low ratio of primary care providers to population, data indicates that the state needs an additional 600+ primary care providers to serve the state; a low ratio of hospital beds to population; [and] government survey data shows a higher rate of Medicare patients that after seeing a doctor needed to get access to a specialist or additional care and had issues with getting access to the specialist or receiving that care. While the percentage of individuals experiencing this issue is overall low, Washington, has some of the highest rates.”

Washington’s high scores in two out of the three categories allowed for the state’s top 10 ranking by MoneyGeek.

“Our ranking puts double weight on outcomes compared to cost and access,” Milnes said. “Given Washington's more positive outcomes and cost components, it overcomes the poorer access scores.”

Mike Faulk, spokesman for Gov. Jay Inslee, was delighted by the overall results of the study.

“Washington has a great health care system, including some of the best research institutions anywhere,” he said. “The state’s Health Care Authority and Department of Health do great work as well. When states focus on equitable access to quality services, transparency for consumers, and are committed to public health, the results are going to be good. Health is integral to the success of individuals, communities and the whole state.”

MoneyGeek's 10 best states for health care:

1. Hawaii

2. Iowa

3. Colorado

4. Minnesota

5. Rhode Island

6. Maryland

7. New Hampshire

8. Massachusetts

9. Utah

10. Washington

MoneyGeek's 10 worst states for health care: 

50. West Virginia

49. Mississippi

48. Alaska

47. Tennessee

46. Louisiana

45. Oklahoma

44. New Mexico

43. Kentucky

42. Missouri

41. Arizona

Staff Reporter

Brett Davis reports on Washington state government for The Center Square. He previously worked for public policy organizations the Freedom Foundation and Washington Farm Bureau, as well as various community newspapers.