These 5 states are healthcare rock stars—did yours make the list?

By Alistair Gardiner
Published March 26, 2021

Key Takeaways

Which states have the best healthcare? And which are at the bottom of the list? And, importantly, where does your state fall?

US News & World Report recently published its state healthcare rankings, based on three measures: access to healthcare, quality of care, and overall health of the population.

In considering healthcare access rankings, US News & World Report looked at adults and children who go without medical and dental care for many reasons, including financial burden. Healthcare quality was assessed using factors like numbers of preventable hospital admissions, Medicare plan ratings, and the quality of nursing homes and hospitals. Public health rankings were calculated by measuring rates of obesity, smoking, suicide, mental health, and mortality for adults and infants.

Here’s what the list revealed.

Top 5 best states for overall healthcare

1. Hawaii 

Hawaii came out a clear winner at the top of rankings as the best state for healthcare. The report listed it as No. 1 for both healthcare access and quality, while it made No. 6 on the list in the public health ranking. 

Part of this may be due to its low numbers of uninsured residents—only 5.9% of Hawaii’s population is uninsured, compared to the national average of 12.9%. It may also be linked to the fact that just 25% of the state’s population is reported to be obese, compared with 32.1% of the country’s population. 

Hawaii reports only 2,109 preventable hospital admissions per 100,000 residents, which is fewer than half the national average of 4,378.

2. Massachusetts

Massachusetts, No. 2 in the overall healthcare ranking, reportedly excels when it comes to healthcare access (it ranked second, just behind Hawaii) and public health levels (where it ranked fourth). Its healthcare quality, however, falls a little short, leaving it at No. 14 in that category. 

While a small minority of Massachusetts residents are uninsured (just 4.2%) and the state reports a similar rate of obesity as Hawaii (25.2%), Massachusetts sees more preventable hospital admissions than the national average, with 4,717 per 100,000 residents.  

3. Connecticut 

Coming in third for overall healthcare is Connecticut—primarily due to its No. 3 and No. 5 rankings in healthcare access and public health, respectively. That said, the state is quite far down the list when it comes to healthcare quality (No. 16), and has a relatively high number of preventable hospital admissions at 4,076 per 100,000 residents, which is in line with the national average. The state’s population also has a 29.1% obesity rate, which is close to the national average of 32.1%.

4. New Jersey

While it has better quality healthcare (No. 11 in the ranking) than Connecticut, New Jersey’s healthcare access score (No. 8 in the ranking) leaves it sitting in fourth place in the overall healthcare rankings. New Jersey does, however, boast the No. 2 spot when it comes to public health, with its lower-than-average obesity rate of 25.7%. Preventable hospital admissions is 4,448 per 100,000 residents. 

5. California 

California doesn’t make the top 5 rankings for healthcare access and quality, but it is exceptional in one regard: public health, where it ranks No. 1.

The state boasts relatively low levels of obesity (26.2%) and lower-than-average numbers of preventable hospital admissions (3,420 per 100,000 residents).  

And the rest

Breaking down the states for their rankings by the three healthcare measures:

  •  Top five states for healthcare access: Hawaii, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

  • Top five states for healthcare quality: Hawaii, Alaska, Utah, Arizona, Colorado.

  • Top five states for public health: California, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.

Bottom 5 worst states for healthcare

There can be no winners without a few losers. The worst ranking states for overall healthcare in descending order were:

46. Louisiana 

47. West Virginia

48. Oklahoma

49. Arkansas

50. Mississippi 

Coming in last in the overall ranking, Mississippi has among the highest numbers of uninsured residents in the country, with almost a fifth of its population living without insurance. The state also has an obesity rate of 40.8%, which is well above the national average. Overall, the state ranks No. 49 in healthcare access, healthcare quality, and public health. Preventable hospital admissions of 5,825 per 100,000 residents were also well over the national average.

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