A new state health ranking is out, and Connecticut trails the rest of New England. Wallet Hub’s 2019 Best and Worst States for Health Care ranking balances 44 measures to compare states, including life expectancy, insurance premiums, uninsured rates, and the costs of medical visits. Connecticut ranks 13th among states while Massachusetts led the nation on health outcomes and Maine was highest on access to care.

Connecticut’s big problem is the cost of our care. Our performance in health outcomes and access to care are passable, but we are 44th among states in the cost of care.

All the New England states, and high-cost states such as New York and New Jersey score better on healthcare costs than Connecticut. We spend more per capita on healthcare than all but five other states. Our individual health insurance premiums are sixth-highest in the nation.

It’s not that we are using a lot more healthcare than other Americans; we are about average. We are 21st among states in prescriptions per capita and 25th in hospital admissions. The problem is that our healthcare prices are too high. Connecticut healthcare practitioners make 16% higher wages than the U.S. average. Nursing home beds cost 70% more in Connecticut than the rest of the country. Inpatient hospital costs are 11% higher here than the national average.

As a consumer finance website, Wallet Hub focuses on the value of healthcare, balancing affordability with quality and access. It might be alright that our prices are high if we were getting great quality care, but we aren’t. The Connecticut Health I-Team is a leader in uncovering the sorry state of healthcare quality here. Their report this week on hospitals included fatal errors, child abduction, and sexual assault.

Connecticut can do better. We can borrow great ideas from surrounding states. We can monitor and hold people accountable. We have data, we just need to analyze and use it.

Most importantly, we have to exercise the political will to act on what we find, without fear or favor. We can invest in prevention and public health to avoid costly care, stop the steamroller of consolidating healthcare markets that quashes competition and drives up prices, do something — anything — about sky high drug prices, and use information technology to reduce duplicate services and make healthcare safer. It sounds like a lot, but other states have already worked out the bugs for us. We really don’t have a choice.

Ellen Andrews, PhD, is the executive director of the CT Health Policy Project. Follow her on Twitter @CTHealthNotes.

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