Health Beat: Survey says Arkansas ranks among ‘unhealthiest’ states for seniors

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 85 views 

Editor’s note: Each Wednesday, Talk Business & Politics provides “Health Beat,” a round-up health-related topics. 


A new report by the United Health Foundation shows that Arkansas is among the unhealthiest states for seniors, mainly due to the high prevalence of obesity, physical inactivity and food insecurity.

Nationwide, increasing rates of diabetes and obesity among middle-aged Americans (50-64 years old), coupled with the massive growth in the senior population over the next 15 years, are likely to significantly affect the health and quality of life for the next generation of seniors, according to the 2016 United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings Senior Report.

The report compares the health of middle-aged Americans in 2014 to middle-aged Americans in 1999 and details broad health concerns for the next generation of older Americans, as well as the potential for strain on the Medicare program and the overall health care system.

Massachusetts is the healthiest state for seniors, rising from sixth place last year, while Louisiana again ranks as the least healthy state for older adults, according to the newest report. Vermont (2), New Hampshire (3), Minnesota (4), Hawaii (5) and Utah (6) round out the healthiest states for seniors. Oklahoma (49), Mississippi (48), Arkansas (47) and West Virginia (46) experience the most challenges in seniors’ health and well-being.

As veterans’ disability claims grow larger, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on Sunday (May 29) proposed a rule to grant full practice authority to “advanced practice” registered nurses (APRNs) when they are acting within the scope of their VA employment.

The rule declares that full practice authority will help optimize access to VA health care by permitting APRNs to assess, diagnose, prescribe medications and interpret diagnostic tests. This action proposes to expand the pool of qualified health care professionals authorized to provide primary health care and other related health care services to the full extent of their education, training, and certification to veterans without the clinical supervision of a physician.

“The purpose of this proposed regulation is to ensure VA has authority to address staffing shortages in the future,” said VA Undersecretary for Health Dr. David J. Shulkin. “This is good news for our APRNs, who will be able to perform functions that their colleagues in the private sector are already doing.”

The American Nurses Association (ANA) applauded the to grant full practice authority to the four types of APRNs. “VA will be able to more effectively meet the health care needs of our nation’s Veterans,” said ANA President Pamela Cipriano. The proposed rule can be found for comment here.

Global consulting and actuarial firm Milliman Inc. said the annual cost of healthcare for a typical American family of four receiving coverage from an employer-sponsored preferred provider plan (PPO) will exceed $25,000 for the first time this year.

In the annual 2016 Milliman Medical Index (MMI), costs for an average family will increase by 4.7% — the lowest rate of increase in the history of this study. Still, the total dollar increase of $1,155 marks the 11th consecutive year that the total dollar increase has exceeded $1,100. On average, employers pay $14,793 of the total healthcare costs and the employee — through payroll deductions and cost sharing at the time of service — pays $11,033.

Healthcare cost trends have exceeded medical CPI in every year since Milliman published its first MMI in 2001. Health care has represented an increasing share of the national GDP. With an average of 7.8% in annual increases, the MMI has more than tripled in 15 years.

Most of the components of care analyzed by the MMI (physician, outpatient, inpatient, other) experienced trends in line with recent years, and overall the annual medical cost increase has ramped down from more than 9% in 2001 to less than 4% this year. But cost changes related to prescription drug coverage have been more volatile, with drugs becoming a larger portion of family healthcare expenditures — this year reaching 17% of their total.

To view the complete MMI, click here.

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