Two health rankings place Georgia at bottom of states

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For years, in state health indicator rankings, Georgia has typically landed in the 30s and 40s.

But never to the bottom.

Peach State, however, was ranked 50th, ahead of only Oklahoma, in a comparison of states and Washington, DC, on health care for the elderly. It follows Georgia ranking 51st last year on overall health care, a ranking largely overshadowed at the time by news of the pandemic.

MedicareGuide’s recently released assessments of healthcare for the elderly analyzed factors such as prescription drug prices, the number of physicians relative to a state’s population, and life expectancy to determine which states provided the best health care for people over 65.

MedicareGuide, part of the consumer health information website HealthCare.com, compared states on measures of cost, quality of care and access to care.

The cost category includes personal medical expenses, while the quality measure analyzes death rates for heart disease, cancer, and stroke, among other factors. Access includes rates of geriatricians, nurse practitioners and home health aides per capita.

“This is depressing but a necessary wake-up call for Georgian policymakers,” Kathy Floyd, executive director of the Georgia Council on Aging, said this week. “Unlike the younger population, older people benefit from health insurance, but that doesn’t automatically translate into good health care.”

Georgia’s Department of Community Health, when asked to comment on the ranking, pointed out that the agency does not administer the Medicare program.

“There’s no question that Georgia has work to do as a state when it comes to the health of older adults,” said Lisa Renzi-Hammond of the Institute of Gerontology at the College of Public Health of the United States. University of Georgia. “These rankings are a great reminder that we need to roll up our sleeves, dig in and focus on infrastructure to support Georgia’s seniors.”

But Renzi-Hammond also cited an area where Georgia is doing well: caring for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. “We have formed a major statewide collaboration to fight Alzheimer’s disease through major public health campaigns focused on community education and prevention, training of health care providers and improving access to diagnosis and post-diagnosis support.”

“There is absolutely work to be done, especially around access, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Georgia’s rankings increase over the next few years,” she added.

Some counties left behind

Georgia’s lowest ranking on overall state health care last year was compiled by WalletHub, a personal finance website. The WalletHub ranking used the three categories of cost, access and results.

In cost of care, Georgia was average, ranking 26th. But he was 51st for access to care.

This category includes rates of physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants by population. According to a 2018 report, nine of the state’s 159 counties had no physician, 76 counties had no obstetrics and gynecology, and 60 had no pediatrician. Another measure of access used is the rate of people without any health coverage. Georgia has the third highest rate of uninsured, at 13.4%, behind Texas and Oklahoma.

In health outcomes, the state was 47th. The category includes data on infant mortality and maternal mortality, where Georgia has long had problems.

Dr. Harry Heiman, a health policy expert at Georgia State University, said of the WalletHub rankings that “we’ve known for a long time that Georgia has one of the highest rates in the nation for people without health insurance in at the same time we have some of the worst health outcomes.”

“We know that Georgia has unacceptably high infant mortality and maternal mortality and high levels of diabetes, stroke and heart disease,” Heiman said. He added that “there are significant inequalities for all of these issues, disproportionately affecting low-income, rural, and black and brown communities in our state.”

In both rankings, the Southeast states tended to fall to the bottom. The MedicareGuide ranking had Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, Louisiana and Mississippi at 40 and under.

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