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Nearly 1 in 4 West Virginians have lost six or more teeth. That’s just one finding in a new Commonwealth Fund scorecard on the performance of health systems across the U.S.
Minnesota is home to the best-performing health care system in the country, according to the scorecard. Mississippi ranks last, just as it did in 2009, the last time the scorecard was released.
The Commonwealth Fund assessed a wealth of data in determining the states’ ranks. The Atlantic said:
The Commonwealth Fund relied on 42 different metrics that gauged everything from insurance coverage to avoidable hospital stays to vaccination rates, at the systemic level; and from obesity rates to how many adults have lost six or more teeth, at the individual level.
One thing is made abundantly clear when reviewing the states’ ranks: “When it comes to the quality of health care, there are two Americas,” The Huffington Post said.
On average, most Northern states fared well on the health care scorecard, some scoring as much as eight times better than other states. It was an entirely different story in the Southern states.
The Southern states performed poorly five years ago, and, unfortunately, not much changed this go-round. In fact, if you live in the South, chances are your state has a dismal health care rating.
Last-place Mississippi is followed by Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas for the worst health care systems across the U.S. These states not only have inferior health care, their people are also more likely to be poor, according to HuffPo.
“We continue to see this very wide geographic spread,” said Commonwealth Fund senior vice president Cathy Schoen, a co-author of the report. Millions of lives could be saved if the low-performing states could close just half the gap with the top states, Schoen said. “We really need to stay focused on aiming higher.”
One way Obamacare aimed to improve health care was to expand Medicaid to people making 133 percent of the federal poverty level or less. That equates to $15,521 for a single person. Unfortunately, many of the worst-performing states, most with Republican governors or legislatures, opted out of the Medicaid expansion and the bump in federal funds it would bring to their states.
Of course, expanding Medicaid isn’t a cure-all, but it’s a start. It would allow more people to have health coverage, likely leading to less non-emergency trips to the emergency room. Enabling people to be insured could also lead to more doctors moving to rural or poor areas to provide their services.
As if health care in the South doesn’t sound bad enough, there’s more. The Atlantic said there’s also a disparity in mortality between black and white people in the Southern states. “A black man in Mississippi has a shorter life expectancy than the average American did in 1960,” it said.
And things aren’t looking much better for the future. As a result of the some of the worst-performing states opting out of Medicaid expansion, the Commonwealth Fund said, the geographic divide among health care systems will likely get bigger.
Curious how your state and region stack up against the rest of the nation? Click on this interactive map to find the health rankings for your ZIP code.