25 Cities Where You Don’t Want to Get Sick

Source: Jacob Boomsma / iStock via Getty Images

5. Jackson, Tennessee
> 30-day hospital readmission rate: 15.6% (national rate: 15.3%)
> Mortality within 30 days of hospitalization: 14.7% (national rate: 12.4%)
> Preventable hospitalizations: 64 per 1,000 Medicare enrollees (national rate: 45 per 1,000)
> No. of primary care physicians: 103 per 100,000 residents (national rate: 75 per 100,000)
> Median household income: $48,700 (national median: $65,712)

The mortality rate of patients within 30 days of being admitted to a hospital in Jackson, Tennessee, is among the highest of all U.S. metro areas. Some 14.7% of patients discharged from metro area hospitals die within a month, a higher share than in all but 11 other U.S. metro areas. The 30-day mortality rates for patients treated for pneumonia and for those with COPD are particularly high, at 20.0% (the second highest) and 11.6% (the fourth highest), respectively compared to 15.6% and 8.5% nationwide.

Though Jackson has among the most primary case physicians per capita, the area’s preventable hospitalizations rate of 64 per 1,000 Medicare enrollees is higher than the vast majority of U.S. metro areas and higher than the national rate of 45 per 1,000.

Source: zimmytws / iStock via Getty Images

4. Jonesboro, Arkansas
> 30-day hospital readmission rate: 17.0% (national rate: 15.3%)
> Mortality within 30 days of hospitalization: 13.8% (national rate: 12.4%)
> Preventable hospitalizations: 61 per 1,000 Medicare enrollees (national rate: 45 per 1,000)
> No. of primary care physicians: 98 per 100,000 residents (national rate: 75 per 100,000)
> Median household income: $44,998 (national median: $65,712)

Medicare enrollees living in Jonesboro, Arkansas, are far more likely than average to be readmitted to a hospital within a month of their initial admission. An estimated 17.0% of Medicare recipients in the metro area who are hospitalized have to be readmitted for care within 30 days of their initial care period. This can often indicate low quality of care. Additionally, about 13.8% of those hospitalized for certain serious conditions in Jonesboro die within 30 days after admission, well above the national mortality rate after 30 day of 12.4%.

Source: baona / iStock via Getty Images

3. Dubuque, Iowa
> 30-day hospital readmission rate: 15.0% (national rate: 15.3%)
> Mortality within 30 days of hospitalization: 12.8% (national rate: 12.4%)
> Preventable hospitalizations: 94 per 1,000 Medicare enrollees (national rate: 45 per 1,000)
> No. of primary care physicians: 79 per 100,000 residents (national rate: 75 per 100,000)
> Median household income: $62,178 (national median: $65,712)

Dubuque, Iowa, is one of only five metro areas in the Midwest to rank on this list. Preventable hospitalizations can suggest inadequate outpatient treatment and also overuse of hospitals as a primary source of care. In Dubuque, about 94 Medicare enrollees for every 1,000 are hospitalized for conditions that could or should have been treated in an outpatient setting, by far the highest preventable hospitalization rate of any metro area in the United States.

Despite the nation-leading preventable hospitalization rate and the unnecessary additional strain that such hospitalizations impose on facilities, by some measures, hospitals in Dubuque perform relatively well. For example, just 15.0% of those discharged by area hospitals are readmitted within 30 days, a slightly smaller share than the 15.3% national readmission rate, and the mortality rate within a month of admission is 12.8%, only slightly higher than the national rate of 12.4%.

Source: MJFelt / iStock via Getty Images

2. Lakeland-Winter Haven, Florida
> 30-day hospital readmission rate: 16.7% (national rate: 15.3%)
> Mortality within 30 days of hospitalization: 13.5% (national rate: 12.4%)
> Preventable hospitalizations: 70 per 1,000 Medicare enrollees (national rate: 45 per 1,000)
> No. of primary care physicians: 49 per 100,000 residents (national rate: 75 per 100,000)
> Median household income: $51,833 (national median: $65,712)

Preventable hospitalizations can be indicative of inadequate primary care facilities and can result in undue strain on hospital resources. In the Lakeland-Winter Haven metro area, there are 70 preventable hospitalizations for every 1,000 Medicare enrollees, well above the 45 per 1,000 national rate.

An over-reliance on emergency rooms and urgent care as a primary means of treatment may be due in part to the relative lack of primary care physicians in the area. There are only 49 primary care physicians in Lakeland-Winter Haven for every 100,000 residents, compared to 75 per 100,000 nationwide.

Source: Amadscientist / Wikimedia Commons

1. Merced, California
> 30-day hospital readmission rate: 17.5% (national rate: 15.3%)
> Mortality within 30 days of hospitalization: 14.3% (national rate: 12.4%)
> Preventable hospitalizations: 54 per 1,000 Medicare enrollees (national rate: 45 per 1,000)
> No. of primary care physicians: 44 per 100,000 residents (national rate: 75 per 100,000)
> Median household income: $61,167 (national median: $65,712)

In the Merced, California, metro area, 17.5% of all hospital patients who are discharged are readmitted within 30 days, the second highest readmission rate of any metro area in the United States. Though the majority of unplanned hospital readmissions are not preventable, an especially high readmission rate can be indicative of poor quality hospital care. The mortality rate within 30 days of being admitted is also among the highest in the country, at 14.3%, compared to 12.4% nationwide.

Adequate physician availability is critical to receiving necessary care, and there are relatively few doctors in the Merced metro area. There are only about 44 primary care physicians for every 100,000 people in Merced, one of the smallest concentrations of doctors among U.S. metro areas and well below the national concentration of 75 per 100,000.