Study: Arkansas ranks 47th in health care, state surgeon general says officials addressing the issues

by Steve Brawner (BRAWNERSTEVE@MAC.COM) 40 views 

Arkansas ranks 47th overall among states and Washington, D.C., in health care outcomes, access and costs, according to an analysis by WalletHub.

The state ranked 48th when comparing health outcomes, 35th comparing health access, and 19th comparing health care costs. Minnesota ranked first overall, while Alaska was 51st, in the WalletHub report.

Dr. Greg Bledsoe, the state’s surgeon general, said the 47 ranking is consistent with numbers produced by other research efforts. He said the state is addressing issues raised in the report.

“It’s a big ship to turn. It’s not going to be done instantly,” he said. “But we’re hopeful that with the measures that we’re putting in place, we’ll have some effect with that.”

Bledsoe said a big issue in Arkansas is access, particularly in rural areas.

“We’ve got these little pockets of populations that still have difficulty finding physicians and finding health care professionals in their hometowns, and that’s going to continue to be a challenge,” he said.

The state ranked 48th overall in health outcomes. Among the findings, Arkansas was:
• 45th in life expectancy at birth, 76 years;
• 48th in infant mortality rate, 7.53 deaths per 1,000 births;
• 45th in child mortality rates, 22.7 deaths per 100,000 children;
• 44th in maternal mortality rates,14.6 deaths per 100,000 live births;
• 48th in the rate of hospital readmittances within 30 days following discharges, 15.6%;
• 35th in the cancer rate, with 454 cases per 100,000 residents;
• 50th in heart disease, which was measured by percentage of people with coronary heart disease, stroke or heart attack;
• 48th in percentage of at-risk adults without a routine doctor visit in the past two years, 11.8%; and
• 48th in the percentage of adults without a dental visit in the past year, 42.7%.

The state ranked 35th regarding health care access. Among the findings, Arkansas was:
• 42nd regarding the percentage of adults ages 18 to 64 with health insurance coverage, 76.5%, based on U.S. Census figures;
• 13th regarding its public hospital system;
• 11th in number of hospital beds, 3.8 per 1,000 residents;
• 30th in average emergency room wait time, 26 minutes;
• 47th in number of physicians, 198.1 per 100,000 residents;
• 27th in number of nurse practitioners, 46.15 per 100,000 residents;
• 47th in number of physician assistants, 13.57 per 100,000 residents;
• 44th in the number of dentists, 25.45 per 100,000 residents;
• 6th in percentage of medical residents retained, 56.5%;
• 12th in physician Medicare acceptance rates, 88.7%;
• 9th in physician Medicaid acceptance rates, 89.8%;
• 27th in youth health insurance coverage, 94.2%;
• 40th in telehealth;
• 41st in number of Urgent Care Association of America-certified urgent-care centers, 0.03 per 100,000 residents;
• 20th in number of retail clinics, .68 per 1 million residents; and
• 35th in number of patient encounters in a federally qualified community health center, 19 per 100 residents.

The state ranked 19th regarding health insurance costs, including in the following metrics:
• 1st in the cost of a dental visit, $66.58;
• 13th in cost of a medical visit, $93.25;
• 25th in average monthly insurance premiums, $284; and
• 47th in the percentage of adults under 65 with high out-of-pocket medical spending relative to income, 24.4%.

Jill Gonzalez, an analyst for Wallet Hub, said the study showed that health insurance premiums differ significantly from state to state – around $200 for low-cost states like Minnesota, Arizona and Kansas, which was about a third of high-cost states Alaska, New Jersey and New York. WalletHub is a website offering free credit scores and credit reports as well as automated financial advice.

Cost, access and outcomes each counted for a third of the state’s overall ranking. Four metrics were considered regarding costs while 16 were considered for access and nine were considered for outcomes. The four cost-related metrics (cost of a medical visit, cost of a dental visit, average monthly insurance premium, and high out-of-pocket medical spending) each counted for 8.33% of a state’s score, while access metrics each counted for 2.08 points and outcomes counted 3.33 points, except for life expectancy at birth, which was given a double weight of 6.67 points.

Gonzalez said extra weight was given to individual cost factors in keeping with WalletHub’s being a finance-related site, and the extra weight given to life expectancy was given in consultation with academic experts.

Data was collected from sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and others.