We all know that location is critical when it comes to investing in real estate, but research shows that geography also is key to getting the best care for seniors. In the fall, we shared the latest rankings for the states with the best long-term care services in the U.S. Another recent report examines the best (and worst) states for overall senior healthcare when it comes to quality and affordability. Once again, it turns out that location matters.

>> Related: A Look at State Rankings for Long-Term Care Services

Examining the data on senior healthcare

MedicareGuide, a subsidiary of the insuritech company HealthCare.com, recently examined multiple factors that relate into healthcare to determine which states (plus Washington, D.C.) offered the best (and worst) healthcare for people over age 65.

They ranked the states based on three key areas: cost, access, and quality. Within these main categories, they further evaluated the data based on 24 relevant metrics including factors like average monthly insurance premium, prescription drug prices, nursing homes/assisted living facilities per capita, geriatricians per capita, Alzheimer’s disease rate per capita, fall deaths, life expectancy, and more.

The data used to determine the rankings was collected from a number of sources including the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Kaiser Family Foundation, Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and others.

The group’s findings might surprise you.

Top 10 states for overall senior healthcare

  1. Minnesota
  2. North Dakota
  3. Massachusetts
  4. California
  5. Nebraska
  6. Hawaii
  7. Montana
  8. Colorado
  9. Iowa
  10. Connecticut

Bottom 10 states for overall senior healthcare

  1. Delaware
  2. South Carolina
  3. Tennessee
  4. Alabama
  5. North Carolina
  6. West Virginia
  7. Louisiana
  8. Mississippi
  9. Washington, D.C.
  10. Georgia
  11. Oklahoma

Consistent trends

Roughly 22 percent of the U.S. population, or around 62.8 million people, is currently enrolled in Medicare, a national insurance program for seniors established in 1965 when the Social Security Amendments were signed into law. This legislation, which also created Medicaid and the Social Security Administration (SSA), revolutionized how we care for seniors and the disabled in this country.

But despite the availability of Medicare to help defray seniors’ medical expenses, the playing field isn’t always level when it comes to senior healthcare, as the MedicareGuide rankings reveal. If you compare this list to the rankings of best and worst states for long-term care services, it isn’t too surprising that there is a lot of overlap.

The states with the higher rankings typically have more integrated healthcare systems with primary care and specialty practices under an overarching organization. They are states that prioritized improving healthcare access several decades ago and are now reaping the rewards of those efforts.

The lowest ranked states, on the other hand, have many low-income and rural residents, which creates access challenges when it comes to care. When primary care is inaccessible, it sets up residents to have more serious health issues, which often are not discovered until they have progressed and are more difficult to treat or cure.

Bear in mind that just because a state ranks low overall for healthcare, there are of course exceptions within that state — facilities that are providing excellent care. For instance, while North Carolina ranked 45 on this list, there are many outstanding senior care providers across the state such as in the Triangle area and Charlotte with their excellent universities and integrated healthcare systems. It is likely that the numerous rural areas of North Carolina pull down the overall state ranking.

>> Related: How Important Is It to Choose a Medicare-Certified Senior Care Center?

An important senior living issue

When you are considering your senior living options, there are a lot of factors that come into play. You may have a certain climate in mind, or a certain location based on proximity to loved ones or other attractions. You may be looking for a certain lifestyle and/or lower taxes as well.

But as these studies reveal, there may be another important senior living consideration that should be on your radar: access to affordable, high-quality healthcare.

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