Georgia slips even lower among states on new health scorecard

    Georgia dropped in a new annual health care ranking, in part due to its large percentage of uninsured residents. FS Productions/Getty Images

    Georgia slipped to No. 46 among the states in a new ranking of health system performance, down from 42nd the previous year.

    The new 2020 Commonwealth Fund report on states’ health system performance, released Friday, noted that Georgia performed well by certain measures.

    Those include a high rate of diabetic adults having an annual hemoglobin A1c test, and improved mobility for home health patients. Georgia also improved in measures tracking children getting needed mental health care and preventing catheter-associated bloodstream infections.

    But the state’s ranking was dragged down by a high percentage of adults having no health insurance. Another weight pulling the state rating down was the percentage of adults who went without medical care because of cost.

    As a result of these and other areas in which it did poorly, Georgia was ranked 49th on “Access and Affordability.’’

    The low ranking isn’t an unusual place for Georgia to land. The state has typically ranked in the 40s on various scorecards relating to health and health care.

    The Commonwealth Fund rankings cover the 50 states plus Washington, D.C., so the lowest possible ranking is No. 51.

    The most recent data used are from 2018, two years before the COVID-19 pandemic struck the state.

    Colin Smith, a Georgia State University public health expert who was asked to review the findings, noted the percentage of Georgia employees’ salaries that goes to health insurance coverage (8.1 percent), which is worse than the national average (6.8 percent).

    Smith pointed to the fact that Georgia has opted not to expand its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. (Expansion has been adopted by 38 states.)

    “Also, we have not held insurance companies accountable in Georgia for the increases in premiums and decline in coverage as some other states have,’’ Smith said.

    Georgia was also ranked toward the bottom on meeting adults’ mental health needs; on preventable hospitalizations of adults; and on hospital 30-day mortality.

    Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Iowa, and Connecticut ranked at the top of the scorecard, which evaluates access, quality, costs of care, health outcomes and income-based health disparities. West Virginia, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Mississippi ranked at the bottom.

    The report said Americans are living shorter lives than they did in 2014, and African Americans are twice as likely as whites to die from treatable conditions.

    This year, pandemic-related job losses have widened coverage gaps that existed before the crisis, the report added. Black, Latino and other communities of color, already more likely to be uninsured, have been disproportionately burdened by COVID-19 and the related economic fallout.

    This story appears in the Georgia Recorder through a partnership with Georgia Health News

    Andy Miller
    Andy Miller is editor of Georgia Health News and has been a health care journalist for the past 28 years. From 1992 to mid-2009, he covered health care for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He won numerous awards for his newspaper reporting on hospitals and health insurers, state government and Georgia’s mental hospitals.