WILKES-BARRE — The first “State Health System Scorecard,” compiled by The Commonwealth Fund, evaluates how well states’ health care systems are working for low-income Americans, and the report finds wide disparities in access to care and health care quality across the nation.
The report reveals that lower-income people in top-performing states are often better off than higher-income people in lagging states and that millions would have better care and healthier lives if all states could do as well as the top performers.
Overall, Pennsylvania ranked 18th in the report.
According to its website, “The Commonwealth Fund is a private foundation that aims to promote a high performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency, particularly for society’s most vulnerable, including low-income people, the uninsured, minority Americans, young children, and elderly adults.”
The scorecard finds that access to affordable health care and quality of care vary greatly for low-income people based on where they live. The scorecard did a comparison of the health care experiences of the 39 percent of Americans with incomes less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or $47,000 a year for a family of four and $23,000 for an individual.
The report — Health Care in the Two Americas: Findings from the Scorecard on State Health System Performance for Low-Income Populations — also compares the health care experiences of those with low incomes to those with higher incomes — more than 400 percent of poverty, or $94,000 for a family of four — and finds striking disparities by income within each state.
However, the wide differences by geography often put higher-income as well as low-income families at risk. The report finds that higher-income people living in states that lag far behind are often worse off than low-income people in states that rank at the very top of the scorecard.
The report concludes the stark differences in health care access, quality and outcomes add up to substantial loss of lives and missed opportunities to improve health and quality of care.
According to the scorecard, if all states could reach benchmarks set by the leading states for their more advantaged populations:
• An estimated 86,000 fewer people would die prematurely each year.
• 750,000 fewer low-income Medicare beneficiaries would be prescribed potentially dangerous medications.
• Tens of millions of adults and children would receive needed preventive care such as vaccines, check-ups and cancer screenings.
• Nearly 9 million fewer low-income adults under age 65 would lose six or more teeth because of tooth decay, infection or gum disease.
• 30 million more low-income adults and children would have health insurance coverage, reducing the number of uninsured by more than half.
“We found repeated evidence that we are often two Americas, divided by income and geography when it comes to opportunities to lead long and healthy lives. These are more than numbers,” said Cathy Schoen, Commonwealth Fund senior vice president and lead author of the report. “We are talking about people’s lives, health and well-being. Our hope is that state policymakers and health care leaders use these data to target resources to improve access, care and the health of residents with below-average incomes.”
To read the entire report, go to: commonwealthfund.org.