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Brett Arends’s ROI: If you want great healthcare, retire to these states


When we think about retiring and getting out, many of us tend to think about moving south or west—somewhere where the air is warm, and taxes and costs are low.

(Sounds good, right?)

Hence the famous flocks of snowbirds to cheap, sunny places like Florida, Texas and Arizona.

But we’d better wait a second before we book that U-Haul, warns a new report on state healthcare systems.

Check out: Not sure where to retire? Our tool can help you narrow it down

“It’s not all about tax rates and sunshine,” says Jeff Smedsrud, co-founder of insurance comparison sites HealthCare. com and “If you’re in a state with a not-very-good healthcare delivery system, sunshine is only going to take you so far.”

Healthcare can be the key issue when we get older. According to the U.S. Government, our annual healthcare costs over 65 are on average more than twice what they are during our prime working years.

The average male senior citizen used just over $18,000 worth of healthcare per year and the average female senior citizen nearly $20,000, estimates the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services—and these numbers date from 2014.

Yes, much of that spending is covered by Medicare, but by no means all. Not only does Medicare cover only about 20% of your bills, but some costs—such as nursing homes—aren’t covered at all. analyzed state (and D.C.) elder healthcare systems on 24 measures drawn from a wide range of sources, including the U.S. Government’s Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Association of Medical Colleges, the American Geriatrics Society and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

It ranked the states’ systems on cost, quality, and “access,” meaning how far each state offered an affordable option to get insured.

Bottom line?

Well, for those who want sunshine and low costs the news isn’t great.

The winners are Minnesota (home of the Mayo Clinic), North Dakota, Massachusetts (hospital central), California and Nebraska. In terms of healthcare when you’re over 65, these states are the all-round best.

North Dakota has pretty low costs, I guess, but it’s not exactly a warm state. Think: Fargo.

Southern California is warm but…low cost?

That goes double for Hawaii, which comes in at number six.

Meanwhile Arizona comes in at 15, Florida at 23 and Texas all the way down at 35.

The best news may be that Colorado ranks pretty well at number 8.

When MedicareGuide looked at the states just in terms of access, the news was even worse for those who need the sun. The rankings are dominated by states in the North and Northeast, with Maine leading the way. West Virginia ranks high on access, but way down near the bottom on quality and overall costs.

Overall, says MedicareGuide, the worst healthcare systems are in Oklahoma, Georgia, the District of Columbia, Mississippi and Louisiana. Sorry, Dixie.

On the other hand, their state and local taxes are often pretty low—thanks to the huge federal transfers every year from states in the North and East.

For sunbirds, Colorado looks pretty good. And there’s always Hawaii. But maybe somewhere cheaper than Honolulu. Like the Big Island. Or a boat.

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