Thursday, June 11, 2009

Health Care and Medicare in McAllen, Texas

With a per capita income of twelve thousand dollars McAllen and Hidalgo County, Texas constitute one of the nation's poorest regions. However, it has one of the highest levels of Medicare spending per person. Only Miami spends more. At fifteen thousand dollars per enrollee, the annual spending is three thousand dollars per year more than its per capita income. Why? Is there more disease because of the poverty? Are medical services better? Despite the 2003 Texas tort reform, could the threat of malpractice be forcing unnecessary testing? What is causing costs to skyrocket in this unlikely location?

The New Yorker magazine examines these issues and makes some startling observations in "The Cost Conundrum, What a Texas town can teach us about health care."  Among them: "[t]he primary cause of McAllen’s extreme costs was, very simply, the across-the-board overuse of medicine."

If you are interested in Medicare costs and the national health care debate, this will be good weekend reading. Also, take a look at the NYTimes article,  Health Care Spending Disparities Stir a Fight, for congressional/political responses to the New Yorker article and the geographical disparity data gathered by Dartmouth Medical School.


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