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Neal Templin: Is living near a top hospital a retirement goal?

Neal Templin, on

Published in Home and Consumer News

The U.S. government, or more specifically the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service, just came out with its hospital ratings, and the middle of the country was the big winner, according to an analysis of the data by Priceonomics. The five top cities for hospitals were Cincinnati; Austin, Texas; Oklahoma City; Indianapolis; and Dallas, in that order. The top-rated states for hospitals were mostly in the Midwest and mountain west, along with Hawaii and Alaska.

Meanwhile, the bottom cities for hospital care included urban elite favorites Brooklyn, New York, and Washington, D.C., along with rapidly growing Las Vegas. The surrounding states of New York and Nevada also were laggards.

It's hardly a sexy quality upon which to choose a retirement location, to be sure. Good weather and scenery, proximity to friends and family, and perhaps an abundance of golf courses are more top of mind for you. The good news is that the list shows great hospitals widely dispersed in the U.S., and many in sunny and affordable spots.

The government measured 57 different factors including patient experience, mortality and safety of care. It gave between one and five stars; the more stars, the better. While this data is for Medicare and Medicaid patients, these hospitals tend to serve patients of all age groups and income levels, Priceonomics noted.

In Cincinnati, the hospital average score was 3.9. Las Vegas, which is being hurt by shortage of doctors in Nevada, had a score of 1.3.

Of course, the overall quality of hospitals is just one consideration in picking a place to retire, and there are other medical care measures like doctors per capita where other cities come out on top. And while New York gets dinged for some of its hospital care, it also has renowned specialty hospitals like the Hospital for Special Surgery and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

But you can also get world-class cancer care at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, which itself is rated as the 10th best city in the country for hospital care in the government survey.

Houston has other draws for retirees. It has good restaurants and museums. The median home price in Houston is also within the reach of many retirees. And Texas -- which has five of the top 10 hospital cities in the survey -- has no state income tax.

To the north, Dallas, ranked No. 5 for hospital care, and Fort Worth, No. 9, also offer good museums, plenty of restaurants, and reasonable living costs. San Antonio, No. 7, has the laid-back charm of its River Walk and plenty of single-family homes for around $250,000. And Austin, No. 2, has the main University of Texas campus and a hopping music scene, a draw for many retirees. Cheap it isn't, however, with Austin houses often costing double the price of those in San Antonio.


Texas doesn't have a lock on great hospitals. The top-rated state for hospitals is Wisconsin. That's largely because the Mayo Clinic Health System, one of the top-rated health systems in the U.S., has several five-star hospitals in the state, according to the Priceonomics.

If big cities aren't your cup of tea, consider a small town like Eau Claire, Wisconsin. It has a Mayo Clinic hospital, and the cultural events that come with a University of Wisconsin campus.

There is no defining statistic in picking where we retire. But the government ratings on hospital care underscore that people need to look outside the trendy favorites when picking a final perch.

Cincinnati is a case in point. It has plenty of stuff to do, including one of the country's oldest zoos, museums, the Cincinnati Reds baseball team and the Cincinnati Bengals football team. And many Cincinnati houses priced well below $300,000.

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