Oklahoma dropped one spot to 50th — next to last — in a national health-care ranking released Wednesday.
The report by the Commonwealth Fund, which measures all states and Washington, D.C., found that out of 42 health indicators, Oklahoma ranked in the bottom five states for nine, the bottom quartile in 24 and the top quartile for three.
Only Mississippi ranked lower overall than Oklahoma.
“It’s certainly frustrating for us to be falling downward to No. 50,” said University of Oklahoma-Tulsa President Dr. John Schumann. “I think what it boils down to is one pretty straight-forward thing: Our state’s refusal to accept federal dollars and expand Medicaid will continue to punish us and cause us to decline in rankings like these.”
In factors relating to access and affordability, the state dropped from 37 to 48 compared to last year’s report. In avoidable hospital use and costs, it dropped from 45 to 46, and in factors related to equity it dropped from 41 to 49.
“This report is not indicative of the compassionate and driven health-care workers throughout Oklahoma; however, the report indicates that our state’s system needs support from the public/private sectors to expand the quality of care that is given every day,” said Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department. “The report clearly illustrates that accessibility of health-care services is a very real issue for many Oklahomans. It’s time to start collaborating and take advantage of the resources that are available to us to transform health care in Oklahoma.”
The rankings did show that Oklahoma made improvements in a number of indicators.
It ranked in the top five states in one indicator: home-health patients also enrolled in Medicare with a hospital admission. That’s an improvement over the previous year where it did not rank in the top five states for any indicators.
There was also improvement in prevention and treatment, which went from 45 to 44.
Healthy living factors remained steady at 46.
Overall, the state saw improvements in 14 of the 42 indicators.
“There are some positives from this data, and the areas we’ve improved on are certainly welcomed,” Schumann said.
He added that, locally, private and public funding has been used to improve health-care access in north Tulsa, reducing a 14-year life-expectancy gap to 11 years between the poorest and richest zip codes.
The state’s improvements, however, were overshadowed by equal or greater improvements by other states.
“These are the most substantial and widespread state improvements in access to care we’ve seen since we created the state scorecard series in 2007,” said Commonwealth Fund President David Blumenthal. “While there are still wide differences among states, and performance has worsened in some instances, policy changes like those in the Affordable Care Act, incentives to improve health-care quality and safety, and provider-led efforts are beginning to bear fruit.”
Schumann added that it’s no surprise that many of the top performing states are those that have accepted federal funding to expand Medicaid.
“More of their citizens are eligible for health insurance, so their scores go up, because if you have more people and more money in the system and do the division, you could argue it’s a lower cost per patient,” he said. “They have more people insured, lower per-unit cost and deliver more good for more people.”