Study Finds Massive Gap in Healthcare Quality between States

According to a new report published by the AARP, The Commonwealth Fund, and the SCAN Foundation the quality of long-term healthcare and services can vary greatly depending on where you live. The study looked at almost two dozen different qualities of long-term healthcare, including:

· Access to Medicaid home care programs · Quality and cost of nursing home and home care · Private care insurance coverage · Number of home and personal care aides · Number of assisted living and residential care units · Quality of life and level of stress of family caregivers · Percent of home care patients with hospital admission, and more.

Two major trends stood out within the report. First, the consistency of care in the top-rated and bottom-rated states was very steady. The highest ranked states in the study included Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Alaska, Hawaii, Vermont, and Wisconsin. These states scored highly in nearly every category in the study. The lowest ranked states in the report were Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, West Virginia, and Indiana. These states consistently scored average to low in nearly every category of the study.

The second trend seen within the report was the huge gap between states in their levels of care. The best states in the study did far better than the worst states, and the gap between the two groups is substantial. This shows that the worst ranked states have the capacity to give much better long-term healthcare services to their citizens if they wanted to.

The United Health Foundation recently released its own state survey that focused on quality of life issues for seniors. The studies are not identical – the AARP’s study focused on long-term support and services while United’s survey was broadly focused on senior quality of life – but the results from both reports is strikingly similar. In United’s survey the top ranked states for quality of life for seniors included Minnesota, Hawaii, Colorado, and Oregon. Likewise, Kentucky, Mississippi, West Virginia, and Alabama all landed in the study’s worst ranked states, as well.

The results of these surveys do not mean that every senior needs to move to Minnesota. Both the AARP and United studies omit more subjective factors that affect the quality of life and care for seniors such as the effect of harsh winters or being close to family. They also did not ask whether or not a competent family caregiver was present in the seniors’ lives. What they do show is that some states have figured out how to provide high quality long-term healthcare for its seniors and suggest that other states can do better in their care for the elderly. This may mean looking to other states’ healthcare systems for suggestions, reviewing home state policies, or committing more state resources to elder care.

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