In Health Care, Washington Is a City of Two Tales

Washington is a "city of contrasts," according to a study released last month by the Urban Institute. It is rich in health care resources, yet it also has a large number of residents who are underserved medically.

Three medical schools are located in the city, as well as a variety of hospitals that accommodate many nonresidents seeking treatment. More than 40 percent of the days spent by patients in hospitals in Washington are attributable to people who do not live in the city.

The authors of the report, "The Changing Hospital Sector in Washington, D.C.: Implications for the Poor," also note the disparity in health care coverage.

A federal study found that the District has a high percentage of employers offering health insurance to employees, ranking behind only Hawaii, which has universal coverage. Yet the authors, Barbara A. Ormond and Randall R. Bovbjerg, point out that the District ranks second highest among states in the percentage of Medicaid beneficiaries.

How D.C. Compares to the Nation

Resources (per 100,000 population) D.C. U.S.


Generalists 189 81

Specialists 342 128

RNs 1,384 793

Nurse Practitioners 8 13

Physician Assistants 32 10

Hospital Beds 1,184 433

Population Underserved by D.C. U.S.

Primary Care Physicians 25.4% 9.5%

Dentists 2.4 4.2

Psychiatrists 12.1 12.3

SOURCE: Urban Institute