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California spends less on healthcare than most states

December 7, 2011 | 12:26 pm


California spends less on healthcare for each of its residents compared to per-capita spending in most other states, and the situation has persisted for more than a decade, new federal data show.

The statistics from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reveal that all medical spending in the state amounted to $6,238 per resident in 2009, well below the national average and putting California in a bottom rung with Arkansas, Georgia, Texas, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and Idaho.

Experts say the low spending level is partly the result of the state’s big uninsured population –- nearly one in four Californians has no health benefits -– and the low rates the state pays doctors and hospitals for treating the poor.

California spent a smaller amount on low-income care -- $4,569 per person -– than any other state in 2009, even though per-capita spending grew faster than that for the nation as a whole from 2004-09, according to the federal data.

“Spending may be lower in California just because people are not getting access to the healthcare system,” said Larry Levitt, a healthcare and insurance analyst with the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.

California does have signs of strength: It has a relatively young population that uses fewer healthcare services, the report shows. And it is home to a robust system of HMOs -- including the largest, Kaiser Permanente -- which have demonstrated an ability to control healthcare spending, analysts say.

To see the report, go to


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-- Duke Helfand

Photo: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times