The 10 Worst States to Practice Medicine

A new report looks at a variety of factors to determine the best and worst states for physicians. The results show one region in particular is full of headaches for doctors.

The work of a doctor—patient care—is highly stressful and requires great expertise, which is why physicians earn relatively high salaries. However, a long list of non-care-related factors can add a significant number of headaches to a physician’s life. At the office, EHRs, insurance companies, and personnel issues conspire to cause headaches. At home, many physicians are faced with high taxes, even higher student debt, and often high costs of living.

Of course, those problems can vary a lot from state to state.

As America celebrates National Doctors’ Day, the consumer finance website WalletHub.com decided to look at which states are the best and worst places to work as a physician. The site looked at physician salary data, the relative competitiveness of different job markets, rates of malpractice claims, and the actions of state medical boards in order to compile its list.

The best state to be a doctor? Mississippi, according to WalletHub, followed by Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Idaho.

Among Mississippi’s top assets was its pay rate and relatively low cost of living. When the website adjusted pay for cost of living, it found a Mississippi doctor effectively makes twice as much as a doctor working in Washington, DC.

Mississippi also scored high on the list because the state has a much higher demand than many other states.

What about the other end of the spectrum?

What follows are the 10 worst places for physicians among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to Wallet Hub, starting with the tenth-worst state.

10. Maine

WalletHub divided its data into two broad categories: “Opportunity and Competition” and “Medical Quality.” Maine scored in the bottom 20% in both. The state has a relatively high rate of physicians per capita, and an uninsured rate of about 10%. One way lawmakers are trying to make the state more physician-friendly is with a bill aimed at revamping the state’s medical malpractice procedures.

9. Delaware

Like Maine, Delaware scores near the bottom in both categories of the study. The state also has a relatively high regulatory burden. A University of Michigan study found the state has one of the highest rates of disciplinary actions against physicians. The university said Delaware has 7.93 total disciplinary actions and 2.71 major actions per 1,000 physicians.

8. Massachusetts

With so many renowned universities in the Boston area, it’s no surprise that physicians in Massachusetts face a hefty amount of competition. Those physicians also face a high cost of living, although the University of Michigan found the state has one of the lowest rates of disciplinary actions. That said, the state also has some of the highest malpractice payouts in the nation, according to WalletHub.

7. Vermont

The Green Mountain state tied for the highest rate of competition in the US according to the survey. In fact, the state came in 49th overall in the “Opportunity and Competition” category. That was more than enough to counter-balance the state’s 13th place finish in the “Medical Quality” category.

6. New Jersey

A high-tax state with a high number of doctors, the Garden State is the sixth worst state for doctors, according to WalletHub. The state was specifically cited for having high malpractice payouts. On the bright side, New Jersey moved up a few notches from last year, when the state was named the second-worst state for physicians.

5. Connecticut

Connecticut has the fifth-lowest physician pay when adjusted to account for the state’s high cost of living, according to WalletHub. The state also has one of the highest rates of physicians per capita, making it a high-competition state. However, the state was one of a handful of states cited by the University of Michigan as appearing to have a relatively low rate of disciplinary actions against physicians.

4. Maryland

Maryland’s worst rating comes in the category of malpractice payouts. The state’s payouts are tied for the highest in the US, according to WalletHub. A 2012 analysis by 24/7 Wall Street found the state also has the second-highest saturation of physicians, though it didn’t make WalletHub’s top five in the physician-competition category, which looked at expected competition through 2022.

3. Rhode Island

Rhode Island came in last on WalletHub’s 2015 list, so if there’s a bright spot for the state, it’s that they’re now only the third-worst place for doctors. The state tied for the highest competition among physicians and the highest malpractice payouts. In fact, it was the second-worst state overall in the “Opportunity and Competition” category.

2. New York

Start spreading the news: New York isn’t an easy place to practice medicine. The state scored poorly in a number of categories, including malpractice liability insurance rates, which were among the highest in the nation. Far from disputing the low ranking, the state’s medical society this week put out a statement essentially agreeing with WalletHub. The Medical Society of the State of New York said doctors there are faced with “exorbitant medical liability insurance costs, overwhelming government mandates (including now an e-prescribing mandate), and abusive health insurance tactics.”

1. Washington, DC

The worst state to be a physician isn’t actually a state at all. It’s the District of Columbia, where physicians can look forward to high competition and low pay. The district has the highest saturation of physicians per capita, more than seven time higher than that of Nevada. It also has the fourth-highest medical malpractice liability insurance rates, and the lowest overall pay when adjusted for cost of living.

To read the full list, click here.Also, check out this interactive graphic to find out where your state ranks.

Source: WalletHub