Report Finds Nationwide Spike in Preventable Deaths, Maternal Mortality and Medical Bills
The Commonwealth Fund released its 2023 Scorecard on State Health System Performance on June 22, ranking states and the District of Columbia on 58 measures of health outcomes, equity, and affordability. This year’s report includes 12 measures that track prenatal and postpartum care access, reproductive cancer screenings, and maternal mortality. The states ranked highest are Massachusetts, Hawaii, and New Hampshire, while Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Mississippi ranked last. The report, based on 2021 federal health data, shows that every state saw a jump in premature deaths. The researchers attribute the increases largely to COVID-19 deaths but indicate that the pandemic also contributed to substance abuse, caused delays in routine checkups that could have resulted in deaths from otherwise treatable diseases, and imposed barriers to care for diabetes, cancer, and other chronic illnesses. The report also shines a light on pandemic-related increases in mental and behavioral issues, with combined deaths from drug overdoses, alcohol, and suicide exceeding 200,000 for the first time in 2021, up by 50,000 from 2019. However, 60% of adolescents with major depressive episodes did not receive treatment, nor did 55% of adults with mental illness. Meanwhile, the U.S. maternal mortality rate almost doubled in 2021 from 2018, with COVID-19 a “contributing factor” in over 30% of maternal deaths. Black and American Indian/Alaska Native women saw the biggest increases in maternal mortality during the pandemic. The “all-cause” death rates among women of reproductive age (15 to 44) was up almost 40% from 2019 to 2021, with maternal deaths and deaths from COVID-19 and substance abuse also contributing. Sarah R. Collins, vice president for health care coverage and access at the Commonwealth Fund and a co-author of the report, said, “It’s clear from these findings that people in every state desperately need better access to high-quality, affordable health care – especially women of reproductive age.”
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