Study: Dallas ranked among worst cities for cost of health care

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by CYNTHIA VEGA

WFAA

Posted on March 15, 2012 at 7:41 AM

Updated Thursday, Mar 15 at 8:52 AM

DALLAS -- A new study shows Dallas ranks amongst the worst cities in the nation when it comes to providing accessible health care to those who live here.

The study, conducted by the non-profit Commonwealth Fund, found Dallas ranks No. 264 out of 308 cities studied.
  
The factor that hurt Dallas most was the high cost of getting care at area hospitals.

One in five North Texans reported avoiding going to the doctor because the cost is unaffordable, whether that person has health insurance or not.
   
The study's findings are similar to those of other studies, but this is the first study to measure the cost of health care by region.
   
The Commonwealth Fund looked at data compiled between 2008 and 2010. The findings show Dallas area hospitals spend 15 percent more than the national average for those with health insurance and 26 percent more for those on Medicare.
  
The study finds Dallas hospital spending on things like imaging, x-rays, scans and MRIs average $406 for a Medicare patient, compared to the national average of $288.
  
Of the 306 hospital regions reviewed, Dallas ranked slightly worse than Fort Worth, which came in at No. 254 on the list. Austin fared best in Texas, above the national average, at No. 121, and Houston ranked worst, at No. 283.
  
Some Dallas health care leaders say Dallas fared so poorly with such high costs for health care because the population is more sickly, but not according to the study. It found those in Dallas are in the top-20 percent for overall health with relatively few people saying they have to limit physical activity day to day due to poor health.
   
The Dallas area hospitals got high marks for recently implementing a pooled, billing database that can track patients' re-admissions to area hospitals.

The Commonwealth Fund reported curbing Medicare patients’ re-admissions to other area hospitals would help Dallas curb annual costs by as much as $120 million a year.
     
Those who conducted this study also said Dallas could save up to $19 million a year by providing better nursing home care.
   
The study found St. Paul, Minnesota provides the most affordable health care of all the cities studied.
 

E-mail cvega@wfaa.com

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