Continuing my review of health care statistics, I’ve found some interesting data that looks at overall prescription drug expenditures and medication utilization by state.  Forbes magazine reports that last year we spent $291.5 billion on drugs and that on a per capita medication usage rate (see “America’s Most Medicated States”)  the states with the highest usage are in the South.  West Virginia leads the pack, at 17.7 prescriptions/person vs 11.6/person as the national average; with other Southern states AL, SC, TN, AR, LA, KY and border state MO; following in the lead.

The red states have taken the lead!

I’m not a health care statistician (so my inferences could easily be challenged), but I also found it interesting to note that higher medication usage/capita didn’t equate to longer life expectancies.  Chicken or egg anyone?

I took a look at an interesting map at The New York Times showing projected life expectancies in each of these states and decided to include our home state of Wisconsin in this comparison.

Here is what I found, in rank order of shortest life expectancy to longest life expectancy:

  • LA – 74
  • AL – 74.6
  • TN – 75.3
  • KY – 75.5
  • AR – 75.5
  • SC – 75.8
  • MO – 76.8
  • WI – 79

Beer drinking, blue state Wisconsin has taken the lead!

I was also intrigued when I found data from the American Medical Association looking at the degree of insurance industry competition in each state.  Interestingly, all of the states reviewed in this posting including Wisconsin, have a dominant insurer with over 50% of the market according to The New York Times (see “For Many Consumers, Few Insurance Choices“).

Here’s the insurer name and market share data reflecting this market concentration:

  • LA – Blue Cross/Blue Shield: 50 – 69%
  • AL – Blue Cross/Blue Shield: 83%!
  • TN – Blue Cross/Blue Shield >70%
  • KY – WellPoint: 50 – 69%
  • AR – Blue Cross/Blue Shield >70%
  • SC – Blue Cross/Blue Shield: 50 – 69%
  • MO – WellPoint: 50 – 69%
  • WI – WellPoint: 50 – 69%

Blue State/Red State… hmmm a draw.

However, using the insights gained from my undergraduate economic studies, I’d say that we need some of that good old competition in these markets – public option, insurance exchanges anyone? Mortality and morality would improve if the insurance industry were forced to be more competitive and responsive to the market.

If you are interested in finding out more about the state of our health in Wisconsin, you can visit The Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation State Health Facts Website.  They also have information on a broad range of health care issues that might be of interest to those of you educating yourself on this issue.

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5 Responses to Off to the Races – Red State vs. Blue State: Medication Usage, Mortality and Insurance Concentration

  1. Locke says:

    Interesting stats indeed. Though my reaction would be just the opposite. I’d assume that higher medication usage/capita would equate to a shorter life since if you’re taking medication, there would be an underlying medical condition. At least there should be. Medicine isn’t perfect and typically has side effects, some of which are long-term. For example, if you have diabetes, you’re taking insulin and while the medication helps treat the disease, you still have diabetes and it will still shorten your life expectancy. Same for someone with epilepsy only all the more so, since anti-seisure medications have a many serious side effects. I’d assume pretty much anyone on long-term medication for a chronic disease will have a lower than average life expectancy.

    Mortality and morality would improve if the insurance industry were forced to be more competitive and responsive to the market.

    I don’t know that this is a given. My guess is that competition would have less of an impact on care given and mortality than you’d think. BUT it would definitely help provide some much needed downward pressure on costs.

  2. John says:

    Remember, obesity and abortion levels were higher in the southern states as well.

    So much for healthier lifesyle choices and taking personal responsibility. Pop a pill, smoke a cigarette.

  3. Did you check for average age of the population in each of those states? For many years, there has been a trend of old folks moving to southern states when they retire, both for the warm weather and the lower tax burden (old folks don’t care if the local schools suck, since their kids are all grown, and their grandkids are living up north). For that reason, I am not surprised that the “red” states have a higher per capita prescription drug usage. I would have been surprised if it were the other way around.

    When dealing with statistics, it is important to remember that correlation does not equal causation.

  4. Super Id says:

    “When dealing with statistics, it is important to remember that correlation does not equal causation.”

    What you mean ice cream doesn’t really cause crime?

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