For Immediate Release

Jan. 26, 2023


John Lyon
Strategic Communications Manager


LITTLE ROCK ― Of the $1.1 billion spent on Northwest Arkansas Medicare enrollees’ health care in 2019, $240 million was spent on services provided outside the region, an analysis by the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement shows.

ACHI analyzed certain aspects of health care utilization among Northwest Arkansas residents to gain insight into the needs of the citizens and the demands being placed on the health care system of the state’s fastest-growing region. Heart disease received special focus because it is the leading cause of death among Arkansans and because cardiology is one of the most in-demand types of specialty care.

For purposes of the analysis, Northwest Arkansas was defined as Benton, Carroll, Madison and Washington counties. Researchers focused on 2019 to obtain a view of a typical pre-pandemic year.

ACHI’s findings include:

  • Of the $1.1 billion paid for health care services or prescriptions for Northwest Arkansas Medicare enrollees in 2019, 22%, or about $240 million, was for services or prescriptions delivered outside the region.
  • Of the more than 75,000 cardiology procedures performed on Medicare enrollees who lived in Northwest Arkansas in 2019, 11%, or about 9,000, were provided outside the region. The percentages were higher for certain procedures: 14% of coronary artery bypass grafting surgeries and 20% of heart valve replacements were provided outside the region.
  • In 2019 there were nine cardiothoracic surgeons performing coronary artery bypass grafting surgery in Northwest Arkansas. Five of those surgeons — who performed procedures for 62% of the patients — were over age 60, raising concerns about future provider supply.

“Our findings suggest that the demand for services in Northwest Arkansas was already straining the capacity of the existing health care infrastructure even before the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said ACHI President and CEO Dr. Joe Thompson. “Future examinations of the impact of COVID-19 and continued population growth in the region likely will show even greater strain on available services and provider supply.

“This is ACHI’s first analysis that adds real data to previous estimates of the Northwest Arkansas health care system’s capacity and the health care needs of its residents. We look forward to providing additional information on this topic for both public- and private-sector stakeholders.”

Data used in the analysis were from the Arkansas Healthcare Transparency Initiative, which is administered by ACHI and includes the Arkansas All-Payer Claims Database. Information from the analysis is also available on ACHI’s recently launched Northwest Arkansas-focused webpage at

ACHI is a nonpartisan, independent health policy center that serves as a catalyst for improving the health of all Arkansans through evidence-based research, public issue advocacy, and collaborative program development. See more at