Americans are flocking to Sunbelt states, and COVID-19 only accelerated the trend.1
Over 33,000 New Yorkers traded their drivers licenses for Florida cards between September 2020 and March 2021, according to new data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
That’s a 32% increase from the same period the prior year.2
What kind of heathcare are these Empire Staters leaving behind, and what can they expect from the Sunshine State?
We found some striking similarities along with some marked differences.
The healthcare systems in New York and Florida diverge in various ways. But on the quality metrics we examined, the two states deliver similar results.
Most patients in the Empire and Sunshine States give high marks to their hospitals.
An assessment conducted for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services asked Americans to rate their overall hospital experience on a 100 point scale.
New Yorkers gave their hospitals a 64 point rating and Floridians their hospitals a 69 point rating.
The same poll showed New Yorkers and Floridians tied at 77 points in how they rated their experience communicating with doctors.
But Florida topped New York on the responsiveness of hospital staff, at 66 to 63 points.
New York did, however, beat Florida on certain health outcome measures.
Data shows that 76% of New Yorkers were given appropriate antibiotics, compared to 74% of Floridians.
Meanwhile, 42% of New Yorkers received age-appropriate vaccines, compared to just 34% of Florida residents.
In terms of access to healthcare, the picture is mixed.
Floridians spend less time waiting in emergency rooms, but more live farther from their hospitals than New Yorkers.
New Yorkers have to travel less to burn calories. They’re more likely to live near a park or gym.
More low-income Sunshine State residents than New Yorkers also have limited access to grocery stores.
That’s one reason over 19% of Floridians lacked health insurance in 2019, more than twice the 8% figure for New Yorkers.
Providers (per 1000)
Another metric for healthcare accessibility is the number of doctors and specialists.
Data from government and health industry sources show New Yorkers enjoying greater access to providers on a person-to-person basis.
New Yorkers generally enjoy an advantage when it comes to the number of doctors, nurses and mental health providers.
But if you need to get your teeth checked, Florida has the edge with the number of dentists per capita.
Cost: Procedures and Treatments
Based on the data we looked at, New Yorkers enjoy greater access to healthcare providers than Floridians.
They also pay significantly less for many services.
We analyzed prices of five common inpatient treatments and procedures collected from hospitals.
The costs represent what patients pay after Medicare reimbursement for hospital charges (but before private insurance coverage).
At $53,232, the price of a gallbladder removal in Florida is almost twice the $30,980 New Yorkers pay.
Sunshine State residents will also pay almost two times what Empire Staters do for a hip or knee replacement: $49,303 compared to $28,347.
Of the five metrics HealthCareInsider examined, only the cost of an hour of psychotherapy showed parity between Florida and New York.
Inhabitants of both states can expect to pay an average of $125 per hour with a therapist.
Cost: Hospitals and Related
New York and Florida showed greater parity in terms of costs related to hospitalization and medication.
A New Yorker moving to Florida can expect to pay substantially more for prescription drugs.
According to CMS, the per capita actual cost paid by Medicare Part B in Florida averaged $862 in 2019.
That compares to $540 in New York.
But at $2,366 per day, Floridians pay substantially less than the $3,070 New Yorkers pay for a day in a hospital.
New Yorkers relocating to Florida will also save on insurance premiums.
The total premium for employer-sponsored health insurance plans came to $18,134 in 2019.
That compares to $16,785 in Florida.
But headline figures can be deceiving.
Healthcare costs can bite Floridians harder, given the lower median household income of $55,660 in Florida – almost $13,000 less than the $68,486 median household income in New York.3
Thousands of New Yorkers relocate to Florida each year to enjoy the warm climate and to save on taxes and the lower cost of living.
It should come as a relief that these former Empire State residents can expect roughly the same quality of treatment from hospitals and providers in the Sunshine State.
But there are caveats. “People moving states should remember that in most instances they can’t bring their insurance with them and will have to enroll in a new plan in their destination state,” notes HealthCare.com cofounder Jeff Smedsrud. “The exception is a life-threatening emergency, in which case plans cover all hospitals, regardless of whether the hospital is in-network.”
These newly minted Floridians should also prepare for lower access to healthcare – in distance to hospitals, insurance coverage and per capita provider ratios – and higher costs.
The biggest beneficiaries of a move from New York to Florida may be healthy, younger remote workers who are able to bring their high New York salaries with them while taking advantage of Florida’s low cost of living and their low healthcare needs.
Data visualizations in this post represent normalized figures designed to allow for ready comparisons between New York and Florida on a broad range of metrics.
Quality: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, The Commonwealth Fund, Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems via CMS Hospital Compare, Truven MarketScan
Access: American Hospital Directory, AutoInsurance.org, Census Bureau, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, Kaiser Family Foundation, University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute
Providers: American Hospital Directory, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Health Workforce, Mental Health America, NurseJournal, State Physician Workforce Data Report
Costs: CBS News/Hospital Pricing Specialists, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, The Commonwealth Fund, FAIR Health, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey Insurance Component, SimplePractice