A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Why Do We Spend So Much on Health Care in Massachusetts?

Why Do We Spend So Much on Health Care in Massachusetts?

March 26, 2007

Out in Chicago this weekend at a conference for new state legislators and legislators new to health care policy – organized every other year by Nat. Conf. of State Legislatures and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Rep. Steve Kulik, new House vice chair of Health Care Financing Committee, was there for MA. Interesting session on healthcare workforce with state-by-state professional data. See if you can observe a trend: (Data is federal from 2002-05.)

1. Category/2. MA Rank among 50 States (low # equals highest) / 3. MA Rate Per 1,000 Pop./ 4. US Rate Per 1,000 Pop.

Physicians/ #1/ 303.19/ 214.09

Allopathic Med School Enrollment/#2 - /38.31/22.62

Registered Nurses/ #4 /1,173/ 802

Nurse Practitioners/ #4/ 89.92/ 42.04

Dentists/ #2/ 80.15/ 59.4

Dental Hygienists/ #4/ 94.6/ 53.9

Physician Assistants/ #28/ 17.27/ 16.87

Chiropractors/ #28/ 29.22/ 29.14

Podiatrists/ #4/ 9.35/ 6.13

Optometrists/ #31/ 7.17/ 7.83

Pharmacists/ #31/ 75.59/ 77.02

Psychiatrists/ #3/ 13.56/ 5.21

Psychologists/ #3/ 57.51/ 33.52

Social Workers/ #6/278.03/ 158.27

Physical Therapists/ #1/ 87.12/ 49.45

Occupational Therapists/ #3/ 58.6/ 29.53

Speech Language Pathologists & Audiologists/ #5/ 51.59/ 34.8

Respiratory Therapists/ #22/ 32.42/ 32.1

Emergency Medical Technicians & Paramedics/ #18/ 77.46/ 65.06

Med & Clinical Lab Techs/ #1/ 184.06/ 101.32

Med Records & Health Info Technicians/ #6/ 81.04/ 53.43

Radiologic Technologists/ #8/ 79.33/ 62.01

Dieticians & Nutritionists/ #1/ 27.43/ 16.28

Home Health Aides/ #21/ 212.11/ 212.64

Out of 24 categories, we’re among the top eight states 17 times – 14 times among the top five. And we tend toward the highest rates in the highest paid professions. Not that there’s anything wrong with this. Just seems pretty obvious – more professionals, more services provided, both necessary and unnecessary. As we keep asking ourselves the question, why is per capita health spending in MA so high even relative to inflated US spending, a lot more professionals doing a lot more services seems a logical piece of the answer. Not the only one, but a piece of the explanation.
John McDonough