Report: Washington ranks No. 10 in overall health care system performance

Washington ranks tenth among the states for overall health systems performance, according to a new study by the Commonwealth Fund

Reporting on the study for the National Conference of State Legislatures, Ashley Noble writes,

The report follows up on the Commonwealth Fund’s previous scorecards in analyzing state performance and progress across 44 indicators in five broadly defined categories, including: Access and Affordability, Avoidable Hospital Use and Costs, Equity, Healthy Lives, and Prevention and Treatment.

All states improved in at least one category over the course of 2013-15.

From the study, 

Vermont was the top-ranked state overall in this year’s Scorecard, followed by Minnesota, Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts (Exhibit 1). California, Colorado, Kentucky, New York, and Washington made the biggest jumps in ranking, with New York moving into the top-performing group for the first time. Kentucky also stood out for having improved on more measures than any other state.

Washington climbed to No. 10 from being tied for No. 16 in the 2013 baseline period.

The Commonwealth Fund finds significant disparities among the states in system performance. And, it concludes, all states can do better.

All states have the opportunity to improve, including those at the top. On certain indicators, states that ranked lower overall performed better than those at the top of the overall rankings, which suggests that states can learn from each other. If every state achieved the performance of the top-ranked state on each Scorecard indicator, their residents and the country as a whole would realize dramatic gains in access, quality, efficiency, and health outcomes.

States can take various steps to promote improvement. Examples include using value-based purchasing, establishing rules to ensure equitable access and competitive insurance markets, setting strategies for health information technology and exchange, and supporting public health and community-based organizations that address social determinants of health. Health systems with a stronger primary care orientation generally achieve better outcomes. Promoting an adequate primary care workforce, especially in underserved areas, may require collaborating with other payers to support the development of effective primary care medical homes, among other actions. (Citations omitted.)

Noting the ongoing debate about changes in the Affordable Care Act, Commonwealth advises,

With the future uncertain, it will be more important than ever to track state health system performance as states assume greater responsibility for the future of health policy.

Health care insurance, cost and access remain a significant concerns for individuals and employers. With that in mind, the Commonwealth Fund report provides good information for those engaged in health policy development.