In 1999, McAllen had one of the lowest concentrations of physicians per person in the U.S., with a value of 1 primary care physician per 2500 people, despite a 53% increase in the physician supply since 1979.
In 2006, McAllen had the second highest per capita Medicare spending in the United States, eclipsed only by Miami (which has higher living and labor costs). That fact served as the basis of a 2009 article in The New Yorker by surgeon and author Atul Gawande which “made waves”. In 1992, McAllen was in line with average Medicare spending (~$4,900 for each beneficiary a year). By 2006, the spending had increased to ~$15,000 for each beneficiary a year—almost double the national average. With a $12,000 per capita income, Medicare billing per beneficiary was three thousand dollars higher than the average income of residents. El Paso, a town with similar demographics, billed Medicare ~$7,500 per beneficiary in 2006. El Paso hospitals, despite spending significantly less, outperformed McAllen hospitals on 23 of 25 health indicators.
Using price adjusted 2007 Medicare data (based on the methods of Gottlieb et al. McAllen had spending elevations of 86% versus El Paso and 75% versus the national average.