Colorado City A Model For Low-Cost, High Quality Care, Series Details

Grand Junction, Colorado delivers some of the best healthcare in the nation at the lowest cost. Medicare spends just $5,873 per year on the average recipient here, compared to a national average of $8,304, according to the Atlas of Health Care. 

 A five part series in the Las Angeles Times found that the key components of the Grand Junction health system include:

  • Nearly all patients have a primary care physician and there is a focus on primary care.
  • All pregnant women receive pre-natal care.
  • The ratio of primary care physicians to specialists is higher than in most systems.
  • Electronic medical records allow providers to see patient allergies and medical history which reduces duplicative testing.
  • The leading insurer pays doctors the same rates for all patients, including those on Medicaid and Medicare.
  • A non-profit hospice extends life an average of 10 days and saving $5,150 for every person who dies there.
  • The dominant home agency is not owned by doctors ordering treatment.
  • A local residency program has trained 50 doctors who stayed to practice in Mesa County, locally easing a national shortage of primary care physicians.
  • The regional hospital subsidizes a low-priced clinic for the uninsured, which is faster and less expensive than an emergency room visit.

Critics say that Grand Junction has unusually low rates of obesity, diabetes, and other major chronic illnesses which is the true reason behind the low cost of health care in the area. However, it is not clear if the better health of the population is a result of the original health and genetics of local population, or if it is due in part to the area's emphasis on prevention and its heath care system.

(Sources: Kaiser Health News, February 26, 2010; Los Angeles Times, http://latimes.com, February 25, 2010)