Report Ranks Best and Worst States for Child Health Care

Filed under: Health & Safety: Babies, In The News, Health & Safety: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Health & Safety: Big Kids, Health & Safety: Tweens, Health & Safety: Teens

A child's access to affordable health care varies widely from state-to-state. Credit: Getty

A recent analysis of states' performance in children's health care found that where kids live and their parents' incomes have a significant effect on their access to affordable care and preventive treatment.

Conducted by The Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that promotes health care, the report looked at how each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia performed on 20 key indicators of children's health.

The analysis uncovered a wide variation in performance, with often a two- to threefold difference across states. Some of the findings highlighted include:

  • Nationally, 10 percent of children are uninsured, with the rate exceeding 16 percent in three states
  • Although children's health insurance coverage has expanded in many states, parents' coverage has decreased
  • Across states, the extent to which children have access to care is closely related to their receipt of preventive care and treatment
The report notes that, if all states achieved top levels on each dimension of performance, these outcomes would occur:

  • Over 5 million more children would have health insurance coverage
  • 10 million more children would receive at least one medical and dental preventive care visit per year
  • 600,000 more children would receive recommended vaccines by the age of 3
  • Nearly 370,000 fewer children with special health care needs would have problems getting referrals for specialty care services

While the 14 states in the top quarter of the overall performance ranking -- Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Minnesota, Connecticut, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Kansas and Washington -- often perform well on many of the indicators, even these leading states have room to improve, the authors say. No state ranked in the top half of performers across all indicators.

At the other end of the spectrum, the states that ranked in the lowest quarter generally underperform in multiple areas, with worse access to care, poorer health outcomes and wide disparities related to income, race/ethnicity and insurance status.

The states ranked lowest overall were: Nevada, Mississipi, Arizona, Texas, Florida, New Mexico, Oklahoma, California, Georgia, Arkansas, Idaho, Louisiana and the District of Columbia.

The authors say the findings highlight the importance of measures to guarantee children's access to health care in the face of rising costs and increasing financial stress on families in today's difficult economy.

"States that invest in children's health reap the benefits of having children who are able to learn in school and become healthy, productive adults," say the authors. "Other states can learn from models of high performance to shape policies that ensure all children are given the opportunity to lead long, healthy lives and realize their potential," they conclude.

Find out how your state ranks on the child health scorecard.

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