Geriatric doctor (geriatrician) consulting and diagnostic examining elderly senior adult patient (older person) on aging and mental health care in medical clinic office or hospital examination room

The Commonwealth Fund, a private health care research and policy foundation, issued the seventh version of its state health system rankings this morning. The report measured 47 different aspects of public health and availability in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Idaho ranked 18th overall, an improvement from 24th place in the previous report, with improved scores in all five of the major categories from the previous report. In one of the five main categories, avoidable hospital use and cost, Idaho had the third-highest ranking in the country.

Idaho ranked eighth for low disparity of health care coverage between low and high-income residents, 17th for healthy living measures such as premature death and smoking, 33rd for preventative care and quality of treatment and 35th for access and availability of health insurance.

This is the first year the study has included those regional categories to help study the geography involved in some public health measures. Lead author David Radley said the regional breakdowns could be more helpful than the national measures of every state when it came to some of the measures.

“We want policymakers to compare themselves to their neighbors who may be more similar in their socio-economic and political characteristics,” Radley said.

Colorado had the highest overall rank of the five states in the report’s Rocky Mountain region, coming in at ninth place overall, while Utah also ranked ahead of Idaho regionally. Utah was one of the two states with a better score on avoidable hospital stays than Idaho’s.

One of the results emphasized by the report’s authors was the regional trends in deaths from suicide, alcohol and drug overdoses. All five states in the Rocky Mountain region were among the highest in the country when it came to suicide rates. The region also tended to have above-average rates of alcohol deaths and below-average rates of overdose deaths.

Idaho’s suicide rate has long been a concern for state health officials, but the death rate is not the only problem for the state. The state was among the worst-ranked when it came to adults without their recommended vaccines and cancer screenings. While the state’s overall hospital stay ranking was high, the number of preventable stays had risen significantly over the previous years.

The data in the scorecard came from measurements from before Idaho’s expansion of the state Medicaid program. That expansion won’t begin offering coverage until 2020, and the public data on its impact won’t be available to the Commonwealth Fund for years after that, but co-author Susan Hayes expected the expansion to have direct and indirect improvements on the state’s scores.

“Cancer screenings are one of the areas where we would expect some improvement out of the other access indicators and preventative care measures,” Hayes said.

The new ratings also came with the launch of the Commonwealth’s new Health System Data Center website, which allows users to map the trends of all 47 measures between states and over the years tracked by the health system reports.

Contact Brennen with news tips at 208-542-6711.

Kauffman reports on health care and city events for the Post Register.