8/11/2011 @ 1:52PM |10,407 views- Forbes Nagazibe, 8/11/11

You couldn’t get through the debate about health care reform without hearing about McAllen, Texas, which spent more per Medicare patient than any place in the country. New Yorker health scribe Atul Gawande even wrote a 2009 piece in which he went to McAllen and (anonymous) doctors told him why they were spending all that money.

But the numbers behind the vilification of McAllen, which came from landmark work by Dartmouth, looked at Medicare data only. It didn’t tell us what was happening for patients covered by private insurers like UnitedHealth or Humana.

Well, the health care unit of Thomson Reuters just conducted exactly that experiment among people in employer-sponsored health plans, capturing data from  23.5 million Americans in 382 metropolitan statistical areas in 2009. Although it’s not quite technically correct to do so, I’m calling these cities because saying “metropolitan statistical area” or “MSA” is jargony and annoying. You can read the whole report here.

Ten Highest-Spending Cities For Private Health Care  
Anderson, IN $7,231  
Punta Gorda, FL $7,168  
Racine, WI $6,528  
Naples-Marco Island, FL $6,312  
Ocean City, NJ $6,128  
Barnstable Town, MA $6,123  
Flint, MI $6,061  
Lake Havasu City-Kingman, AZ $5,977  
Ocala, FL $5,976  
Carson City, NV $5,931

You’ll notice that McAllen is nowhere on that list. But if you click through to the next page, you’ll see that it does make a second list. People with employer-based insurance in McAllen don’t get hit that hard…