There are many factors that compete for your attention when it comes to deciding where you want to retire. You probably consider the climate, recreational amenities, cost of living, safety, and tax rates. Being close to your family and friends may be the most important factor for you.
Even if you’re pretty sure you want to continue living where you are, please keep reading.
There’s one consideration that I believe most people either underestimate or don’t think about at all. That is the quality of healthcare in the area where you choose to enjoy your retirement.
That may not seem too important during the early years of your retirement, when you’re healthy, active, and able to live independently. But it will become more important later on when you start to slow down and you require more medical attention, despite your best efforts to stay in good health.
Then, suddenly, the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 brought healthcare front and center.
Over the past couple of months, I have been reading a lot of news regarding the spread of the virus and the differences in response to the pandemic in various areas of the country (and the world). After spending much of 2019 researching great places to retire for my book The Quest for Retirement Utopia, I started thinking about how various popular retirement destinations (and places I had recommended in the book) were faring with regard to that area’s response to COVID-19.
I noticed something disturbing.
There are several online reports and surveys which compare the quality of healthcare across all 50 states, and sometimes the District of Columbia and other U.S. territories. The results vary considerably from one report to the next, depending on which data were evaluated and how they were weighted. They are all linked at the end of this article.
When I compared the scores across eight different reports, these states consistently showed up near the bottom of the rankings:
- West Virginia
Do you notice a pattern? Many of these states are in the southeast and south-central parts of the U.S. Most of these states offer low cost of living, many are in warmer climates, and some are often listed as popular retirement destinations.
In rural areas of some of these states, some counties have no hospitals and, in a few cases, no doctors. In recent years, economic factors have forced some rural hospitals to close, forcing residents to drive long distances to larger metro areas to receive care.
Many of these states were among the later states to respond to the COVID-19 threat with stay-at-home orders, large gathering prohibitions, and business closures.
Other popular retirement states such as Delaware, Arizona, Virginia, and Florida achieved better rankings.
Of course, it’s inaccurate to apply statistical ratings evenly across an entire state. You can find excellent hospitals and doctors in lower-ranked states, just as you can find sub-par hospitals and doctors in higher-ranked states.
U.S. News has an excellent website for finding the best hospitals in each state.
As you choose where you would like to spend your retirement, even if you are planning to retire in place, visit these resources to determine whether the place you have in mind has good medical care available nearby.
If you have a choice in health insurance plans, make sure the better hospitals are in the network of the plan you choose.
It’s important to live in a place where you can enjoy the weather, feel safe, and have access to shopping, restaurants, and the recreational and cultural amenities you desire. But sooner or later, when you suffer an injury or illness or when the next epidemic arrives, it’s important to live in a place where you can get good healthcare.
U.S. News Healthcare Quality Rankings (Medicare, hospitals, and nursing homes)
Best and Worst States for Healthcare (Wallethub)
Best States for Healthcare (2020, MoneyRates)
The Healthiest States for Seniors (2017, MedicareSupplement.com)
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