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2018 Scorecard on State Health System Performance

May 3, 2018

Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Vermont, and Utah are the top-ranked states according to the Commonwealth Fund's 2018 Scorecard on State Health System Performance, which assesses all 50 states and the District of Columbia on more than 40 measures of access to health care, quality of care, efficiency in care delivery, health outcomes, and income-based health care disparities.The 2018 Scorecard reveals that states are losing ground on key measures related to life expectancy. On most other measures, performance continues to vary widely across states; even within individual states, large disparities are common.Still, on balance, the Scorecard finds more improvement than decline between 2013 and 2016 in the functioning of state health care systems. This represents a reversal of sorts from the first decade of the century, when stagnating or worsening performance was the norm.

Reducing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Access to Care: Has the Affordable Care Act Made a Difference?

August 24, 2017

Issue: Prior to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), blacks and Hispanics were more likely than whites to face barriers in access to health care.Goal: Assess the effect of the ACA's major coverage expansions on disparities in access to care among adults.Methods: Analysis of nationally representative data from the American Community Survey and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.Findings and Conclusions: Between 2013 and 2015, disparities with whites narrowed for blacks and Hispanics on three key access indicators: the percentage of uninsured working-age adults, the percentage who skipped care because of costs, and the percentage who lacked a usual care provider. Disparities were narrower, and the average rate on each of the three indicators for whites, blacks, and Hispanics was lower in both 2013 and 2015 in states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA than in states that did not expand. Among Hispanics, disparities tended to narrow more between 2013 and 2015 in expansion states than nonexpansion states. The ACA's coverage expansions were associated with increased access to care and reduced racial and ethnic disparities in access to care, with generally greater improvements in Medicaid expansion states.

Aiming Higher: Results from the Commonwealth Fund Scorecard on State Health System Performance, 2017 Edition

March 16, 2017

Issue: States are a locus of policy and leadership for health system performance.Goal: To compare and evaluate trends in health care access, quality, avoidable hospital use and costs, health outcomes, and health system equity across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.Methods: States are ranked on 44 performance measures using recently available data. Key findings: Nearly all states improved more than they worsened between 2013 and 2015. The biggest gains were in health insurance coverage and the ability to access care when needed, with states that had expanded their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act experiencing the most improvement. There were also widespread state improvements on key indicators of treatment quality and patient safety; hospital patient readmissions also fell in many states. However, premature deaths crept up in almost two-thirds of states, reversing a long period of decline. Wide variations in performance across states persisted, as did disparities experienced by vulnerable populations within states.Conclusion: If every state achieved the performance of top-ranked states, their residents and the country as a whole would realize dramatic gains in health care access, quality, efficiency, and health outcomes.

A Long Way in a Short Time: States' Progress on Health Care Coverage and Access, 2013-2015

December 19, 2016

Issue: The Affordable Care Actís policy reforms sought to expand health insurance coverage and make health care more affordable. As the nation prepares for policy changes under a new administration, we assess recent gains and challenges.Goal: To compare access to affordable health care across the U.S. between 2013 and 2015. Methods: Analysis of most recent publicly available data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.Key findings and conclusions: Between 2013 and 2015, uninsured rates for adults ages 19 to 64 declined in all states and by at least 3 percentage points in 48 states and the District of Columbia. For children, uninsured rates declined by at least 2 percentage points in 28 states. The share of adults age 18 and older who reported forgoing a visit to the doctor when needed because of costs dropped by at least 2 percentage points in 38 states and D.C. In contrast, there was little progress in expanding access to dental care for adults, which is not a required benefit under the ACA. These findings illustrate the impact that policy can have on access to care and offer a focal point for assessing future policy changes.

The Hospital at Home Model: Bringing Hospital-Level Care to the Patient

August 18, 2016

Presbyterian's Hospital at Home program, launched in 2008, is based on a model developed in the mid-1990s by Bruce Leff, M.D., a geriatrician and health services researcher at Johns Hopkins University, who noticed that many of his patients suffered poor outcomes after hospital stays.1 At Johns Hopkins, teams of physicians, nurses, and other clinical staff make house calls to treat elderly patients, many of whom either refuse to go to the hospital or are at such high risk for adverse events that physicians prefer not to admit them. For select patients, this approach produces superior outcomes at a lower cost than hospital care (see Results).The Hospital at Home model has struggled to gain traction elsewhere in the United States, however, in part because Medicare's fee-for-service program will not pay for its services. Presbyterian is able to secure reimbursement from its health plan, which covers 470,000 Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, and commercially insured members throughout the state and has incentives to reduce costs and improve care.Presbyterian's program fits within a suite of services designed to deliver care in the home. These include home-based primary care, home health, hospice, and Complete Care, a care management program designed to improve coordination of services for patients with advanced illness and, when desired, avoid unwanted aggressive care at the end of life.

Aging Gracefully: The PACE Approach to Caring for Frail Elders in the Community

August 11, 2016

Mountain Empire is one of the newest of more than 100 independent PACE organizations across the nation that serve both as health plans and as medical and long-term service providers to elders—offering meals, checkups, rehabilitation services, home visits, and many other supports that enable enrollees to preserve their independence. The model for PACE dates back to 1971, when a public health dentist and social worker from the San Francisco Public Health Department working in Chinatown-North Beach noticed that as their clients aged, many needed extra support but dreaded moving into nursing homes. They founded On Lok Senior Health Services as an alternative to institutional care that would allow elders to "age in place" in their homes; on lokis Cantonese for "peaceful, happy abode."On Lok's founders were particularly concerned about elderly clients who suffered when their various clinicians failed to work together, sometimes leading to complications that necessitated moves into institutional care. They designed On Lok to promote what was then an innovative approach: coordinating care from an interdisciplinary team of professionals who provide all primary care services and oversee specialists' services.A Medicare-funded demonstration spanning 1979 to 1983 found this approach had many benefits. Care teams were able to prevent or quickly address problems, resulting in better health and quality of life and producing 15 percent lower costs than traditional Medicare. In the decades since, the model has spread slowly, though enrollment has grown nearly 40 percent in the past three years. As of January 2016, there were 118 PACE organizations in 31 states serving some 39,000 elders.

Health System Performance for the High-Need Patient: A Look at Access to Care and Patient Care Experiences

August 1, 2016

Achieving a high-performing health system will require improving outcomes and reducing costs for high-need, high-cost patients—those who use the most health care services and account for a disproportionately large share of health care spending. Goal: To compare the health care experiences of adults with high needs—those with three or more chronic diseases and a functional limitation in the ability to care for themselves or perform routine daily tasks—to all adults and to those with multiple chronic diseases but no functional limitations. Methods: Analysis of data from the 2009–2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Key findings: High-need adults were more likely to report having an unmet medical need and less likely to report having good patient–provider communication. High-need adults reported roughly similar ease of obtaining specialist referrals as other adults and greater likelihood of having a medical home. While adults with private health insurance reported the fewest unmet needs overall, privately insured highneed adults reported the greatest difficulties having their needs met. Conclusion: The health care system needs to work better for the highest-need, most-complex patients. This study's findings highlight the importance of tailoring interventions to address their needs

Bringing Primary Care Home: The Medical House Call Program at MedStar Washington Hospital Center

July 26, 2016

MedStar's program offers round-the-clock access to a care team comprising a geriatrician, nurse practitioner, and social worker. The house calls reveal and address problems that are missed when care is poorly coordinated, enabling team members to identify social supports for patients that can improve quality of life, reduce the burden on caregivers, and head off problems that can lead to high-cost institutional care.Based on the cost savings it achieved, the program became one of the models for the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation's Independence at Home Demonstration, which is testing whether providing primary care at home to frail elderly patients with multiple chronic conditions or advanced illnesses improves outcomes and lowers health care spending. MedStar participates in the demonstration as part of a consortium that includes Virginia Commonwealth University and University of Pennsylvania Health System, both of which are implementing an approach similar to MedStar's. The consortium is one of nine participating groups to earn a share of the savings they produced for Medicare.

Designing More Affordable and Effective Health Care

February 8, 2016

Spiraling health care costs in the U.S. place untenable burdens on an increasing share of Americans and divert money from education, research, and economic development. In 2010, Stanford University launched its Clinical Excellence Research Center (CERC) to develop new ways of delivering health care that might slow this spending growth. "What we want is affordable clinical excellence, and that's what is distinctive about what we're doing," says Arnold Milstein, M.D., M.P.H., CERC's director, who was recruited to lead CERC in part because of his success redesigning ambulatory care for medically fragile patients. The center identifies diseases, conditions, and health care services for which spending could be lowered by 30 percent or more for certain populations while also improving patient health and care experiences.This case study, Designing More Affordable and Effective Health Care, is part of ongoing research by The Commonwealth Fund to track how health systems are transforming care delivery, particularly to meet the needs of high-need, high-cost patients and other vulnerable populations. The first publication in the series profiled thePenn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation.

The Changing Landscape of Health Care Coverage and Access: Comparing States' Progress in the ACA's First Year

December 9, 2015

This analysis compares access to affordable health care across U.S. states after the first year of the Affordable Care Act's major coverage expansions. It finds that in 2014, uninsured rates for working-age adults declined in nearly every state compared with 2013. There was at least a three-percentage-point decline in 39 states. For children, uninsured rates declined by at least two percentage points in 16 states. The share of adults who said they went without care because of costs decreased by at least two points in 21 states, while the share of at-risk adults who had not had a recent checkup declined by that same amount in 11 states. Yet there was little progress in expanding access to dental care for adults, which is not a required insurance benefit under the ACA. Wide variation in insurance coverage and access to care persists, highlighting many opportunities for states to improve.

Aiming Higher: Results from a Scorecard on State Health System Performance, 2015 Edition

December 9, 2015

The fourth Commonwealth Fund Scorecard on State Health System Performance tells a story that is both familiar and new. Echoing the past three State Scorecards, the 2015 edition finds extensive variation among states in people's ability to access care when they need it, the quality of care they receive, and their likelihood of living a long and healthy life. However, this Scorecard—the first to measure the effects of the Affordable Care Act's 2014 coverage expansions—also finds broad-based improvements. On most of the 42 indicators, more states improved than worsened. By tracking performance measures across states, this Scorecard can help policymakers, health system leaders, and the public identify opportunities and set goals for improvement. The 50 states and the District of Columbia are measured and ranked on 42 indicators grouped into five domains: access and affordability, prevention and treatment, avoidable hospital use and cost, healthy lives, and equity. Individual indicators measure things like rates of children or adults who are uninsured, hospital patients who get information about how to handle their recovery at home, hospital admissions for children with asthma, and breast and colorectal cancer deaths, among many others.

Models of Care for High-Need, High-Cost Patients: An Evidence Synthesis

October 29, 2015

This brief analyzes experts' reviews of evidence about care models designed to improve outcomes and reduce costs for patients with complex needs. It finds that successful models have several common attributes: targeting patients likely to benefit from the intervention; comprehensively assessing patients' risks and needs; relying on evidence-based care planning and patient monitoring; promoting patient and family engagement in self-care; coordinating care and communication among patients and providers; facilitating transitions from the hospital and referrals to community resources; and providing appropriate care in accordance with patients' preferences. Overall, the evidence of impact is modest and few of these models have been widely adopted in practice because of barriers, such as a lack of supportive financial incentives under fee-for-service reimbursement arrangements. Overcoming these challenges will be essential to achieving a higher-performing health care system for this patient population.