Texas Bottom Of Health Care Rank
From Staff and Wire Reports
AUSTIN -- Texas ranks worst in the nation in health care services and delivery, according to an annual scorecard issued by the federal Agency for Health Care Research and Quality.
In nine out of 12 categories, Texas rated weak or very weak. The only area where Texas earned the average ranking of good was in maternal and child health care measures. Out of a possible 100 points, Texas earned 31.61, while Minnesota, the highest ranking state, scored 67.31.
The agency identified 155 areas where it could compare the quality of health services across the country, such as infant mortality and obesity rates. Researchers used that data to generate both national and regional averages for each area, and they then compared each state to the national and regional averages to generate a score.
The report is designed to help politicians, policy makers, private insurers and state and federal agencies identify strengths and weaknesses in state health care programs.
Stephanie Goodman, spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, said Thursday that the report goes far beyond what state agencies control, but she said it demonstrates the need to improve access to preventive health care.
"Late last year Texas received approval for a new effort that will help fund innovative local projects," she said. "Hospitals and other health care providers have come together to form regional partnerships, and they'll soon be sending the state their plans for making better use of Medicaid funds to expand access to preventive services and reduce the need for expensive emergency room care."
Nick Sciarrini, chairman of the North Tyler Health Care subcommittee and a former Northeast Texas Public Health District executive director, said Tyler is a unique exception to the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality's report.
He said Tyler-area facilities do provide good preventive care services, however, some factors that may affect outcomes may include noncompliant patients and individuals who do not have access to care and then end up in emergency rooms.
"That may be a problem statewide, but I'm not sure it's as big a problem locally," he said. "We have the Bethesda Clinic, St. Paul's Clinic, in addition to ETMC, Mother Frances, UT Health Science Center and private providers out there. ... If you go 30 miles out in any direction, they don't have what we have."
Sciarrini said partnerships are key to solving health care problems, something East Texas public health officials and medical professionals are good at.
"There's work going on," he said. "Most places know if they've got a problem."
Dr. Kirk Calhoun, president of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler, already has been working with others to come up with solutions for Texas' health care issues. He is on a task force that released a report: Code Red: The Critical Condition of Health Care in Texas 2012.
He said the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality's snapshot of Texas may not provide a complete picture.
"It depends on what you choose to measure," Calhoun said. "We have good quality care here, but we do have a problem with access. Part of that is economic because we do have many people who are at the poverty level."
Texas scored particularly poorly in the home health care category, with the study finding that the state provided little support to the elderly and disabled who chose to live at home. Texas also ranked weak or very weak in preventive, acute and chronic care delivery.
The state's scores slipped from last year in treating cancer and diabetes patients.
The Texas Medicaid law for the disabled and poor offers one of the most limited health care programs in the nation, and more than 25 percent of Texans do not have health insurance of any kind, which is the highest uninsured rate in the nation.
The poor state of the Texas health care system has particular relevance as state lawmakers begin to consider how to respond now that President Barack Obama's federal health care overhaul has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Republicans, who control every statewide office and represent a majority in the Legislature, have rejected the new federal law, which calls for almost every eligible U.S. citizen to get health insurance. Some have pledged to block any effort to expand Texas Medicaid, which is a joint state and federal program, in order to get more people insured.
Last year, Texas lawmakers underfunded Medicaid by more than $4 billion, and that bill will come due when they meet again next year. Top officials have estimated that the Legislature will need to find at least $10 billion in new funding for Medicaid at a time when Gov. Rick Perry has pledged not to increase state spending.
Democrats have called on the state to close tax loopholes to raise more money for both health care and education programs.