10 Best Large Cities to Live for Health Care Access – 2020 Edition

As hospital closures continue to create more hospital deserts [1], access to quality healthcare has been a growing challenge, depending on where you live.

According to a Pew Research Center survey [2], rural Americans are more likely than people in urban and suburban areas to say access to quality healthcare is a significant problem in their community. Twenty-three percent of Americans living in rural areas say this, compared to eighteen percent of urban dwellers and nine percent of suburbanites.

CartoChrome ranked the largest 100 cities so that you can find a city with easy access to quality healthcare in a busy environment. The Overall Health Index is available for any ZIP Code in the United States. 

More than 80 data-driven factors like financial indicators, transportation access, and healthcare infrastructure and personnel were taken into account when we calculated the Overall Health Index. Then, we compiled the factors into a weighted score between one and 100.

Here are the ten best large cities for health care access in the United States.

10. Plano, Texas


The Dallas suburb has been rated the most healthcare accessible large city in Texas. Unlike other cities in Texas that have residents who travel at great lengths to work, residents in Plano commute at an equal rate as the national average. Also, residents in the city are more likely to buy a home than rent, with two-thirds of its residents owning a home.

Plano, Texas scores a 94 in the Travel Index, showing that most of its residents are less likely to miss doctors’ appointments due to vehicular barriers.

Population: 281,566

Overall Health Index: 74

People Index: 42

Provider Index: 90

Hospital Index: 16

Travel Index: 94

Top ZIP Codes in Plano: 75024, 75025, 75093, 75094, 75023

9. Portland, Oregon


Portland is a progressive and cosmopolitan Pacific Northwest city. Forty-eight percent of the population has at least a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to the national average of 31 percent, which is linked to increased household income and health insurance rates.

Portland residents commute slightly less than the national average with a time of 26 minutes compared to 26.4 minutes.

Population: 630,331

Overall Health Index: 76

People Index: 31

Provider Index: 95

Hospital Index: 42

Travel Index: 80

Top ZIP Codes in Portland: 97231, 97221, 97210, 97225, 97227

8. Cleveland, Ohio

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Cleveland hosts some of the most famous hospitals and clinics boosting their Hospital Index and Provider Index. 

The estimated median household income is half of Ohio’s median ($27,900 vs. $55,300); however, rent costs less than the national average as well ($670 vs. $949). 

Population: 753,427

Overall Health Index: 76

People Index: 14

Provider Index: 91

Hospital Index: 65

Travel Index: 77

Top ZIP Codes in Cleveland: 44126, 44143, 44113, 44101, 44114

7. Boston, Massachusetts


Home to several of the oldest and top-rated hospitals in the nation, every ZIP Code in Boston received a perfect 100 in the Physician Index. According to The Massachusetts Department of Public Health [6], there are 15 acute care hospitals in Boston alone. This does not include hospital satellite offices and medical clinics. A high hospital count contributes to the high health provider density with 77.32 physicians and 14 dentists per 10,000 residents, which is a factor in the Provider Index.

Despite the heavy traffic and travel time in Boston, it is not hard to find a hospital in the city. Boston ranks number three out of ten on this list in terms of car ownership per household.

Population: 669,158

Overall Health Index: 76

People Index: 27

Provider Index: 100

Hospital Index: 48

Travel Index: 79

Top ZIP Codes in Boston: 02110, 02108, 02109, 02113, 02114

6. Aurora, Colorado

denver rank

Just 30 minutes from Denver, Aurora is the third-largest city in Colorado. Aurora ranks in the top 10 percentile for its residents in terms of vehicular access. On average, the residents travel at a longer time than the national average with 29.3 minutes compared to 26.4 minutes.

Aurora ranks lower on the list in terms of People Index that measures the residents’ financial and health insurance factors. However, job growth appears to be larger than the national average. 

Population: 357,323​

Overall Health Index: 79

People Index: 16

Provider Index: 94

Hospital Index: 54

Travel Index: 90

Top ZIP Codes in Aurora: 80018, 80019, 80016, 80015, 80014

5. Seattle, Washington


Seattle is a booming city with a population growth of 15.5 percent since 2010. The modern skyscrapers on high hills and low employment make Seattle an attractive city for middle-class families.

Thirty-five ZIP Codes in Seattle score at least a 90 in the Overall Health Index, primarily due to the high-quality hospitals in the area and stronger health provider density. Seattle has one ZIP Code with a perfect score on the Overall Health Index. 

Population: 688,245

Overall Health Index: 80

People Index: 32

Provider Index: 98

Hospital Index: 51

Travel Index: 79

Top ZIP Codes in Seattle: 98164, 98101, 98112, 98121, 98102

4. Cincinnati, Ohio

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Cincinnati is one of the best large cities to live in to access healthcare. They ranked number two out of the top ten in terms of the population living closer to quality government-rated hospitals on average.

Although the household median income is lower than the national average, Cincinnati is a cost-effective city to live, especially with the active businesses in the area.

Population: 298,957

Overall Health Index: 80

People Index: 31

Provider Index: 83

Hospital Index: 68

Travel Index: 79

Top ZIP Codes in Cincinnati: 45252, 45226, 45243, 45218 45233

3. Gilbert, Arizona

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Gilbert, Arizona is a suburb of Phoenix, with a population of 232,176. Being a suburb, the residents need to drive more than cities to access their local amenities and healthcare providers. This may be why Gilbert has the most cars per household on this list with 2.07 vehicles per household. They are ranked number one in the Travel Index on this list.

Despite Gilbert’s cost of living being 27.2 percent higher than the U.S. average, this former resort city has a high median household income is 58.2 percent more than the national average.

Population: 232,176

Overall Health Index: 81

People Index: 41

Provider Index: 69

Hospital Index: 47

Travel Index: 97

Top ZIP Codes in Gilbert: 85233, 85234, 85296, 85298, 85297

2. Madison, Wisconsin

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Madison, Wisconsin is one of the nation’s top college towns and home to the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health[5]. 

Residents in Madison drive the farthest to reach the nearest physicians with an average distance of 3.62 miles to get to the closest hospital when compared to other cities on this list. However, they rank number two in this list in terms of healthcare provider density thanks to their medical school and their robust and stable economy. Strong economies are indicators of accessible transportation and increased private insurance rates.

Population: 248,856

Overall Health Index: 82

People Index: 31

Provider Index: 91

Hospital Index: 71

Travel Index: 68

Top ZIP Codes in Madison: 53702, 53706, 53717, 53718, 53716

1. Honolulu, Hawaii

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Honolulu, Hawaii has been ranked the best large city for health care access city in the United States with a score of 82. According to The Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU)[3] Global Liveability Index for 2019, Honolulu was also ranked as the most liveable city in the United States. Despite the high standard of living, the city has a high health care provider density and numerous means of transportation to a health care provider for its residents. 

Depending on the study, as high as 67 percent of people who say they have problems accessing healthcare say that transportation barriers are a factor [4]. The most significant indicator is access to a vehicle. Honolulu’s resident-to-vehicle ratio is 1.79. Larger ratios indicate harder access to a free car in the area.

Population: 239,283

Overall Health Index: 82

People Index: 26

Provider Index: 95

Hospital Index: 61

Travel Index: 81

Top ZIP Codes in Honolulu: 96821, 96814, 96825, 96813, 96850

Honorable Mentions: Denver, Colorado; Lincoln, Nebraska; San Francisco, California

  1. Ostroff, C., & Frisbie, C. B. (2017, August 3). Millions of Americans live nowhere near a hospital, jeopardizing their lives. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2017/08/03/health/hospital-deserts/index.html/.
  2. Lam, O., Broderick, B., & Toor, S. (2018, December 12). How far Americans live from the closest hospital differs by community type. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/12/12/how-far-americans-live-from-the-closest-hospital-differs-by-community-type/
  3. The Economist Intelligence Unit. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.eiu.com/topic/liveability/.
  4. Syed, S. T., Gerber, B. S., & Sharp, L. K. (2013). Traveling towards disease: transportation barriers to health care access. Journal of community health38(5), 976-993. doi: 10.1007/s10900-013-9681-1
  5. School of Medicine and Public Health (UWSMPH), University of Wisconsin-Madison. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.med.wisc.edu/.
  6. Department of Public Health. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.mass.gov/orgs/department-of-public-health/.


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