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Study shows progress for Idaho health care

Still significant ground to cover

Although it’s often easy to complain about access to physicians and health care, a recent study shows Idaho is actually in a good place as far as patients and providers determining their health needs.

Idaho ranks first in the nation in terms of how much flexibility patients and providers have in shaping health care, according to a new project produced by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

Still, even with favorable outcomes in this study, Idaho has significant ground to cover.

“This study concludes that the framework surrounding healthcare rules and regulations in Idaho is sound - - and in fact, that framework is one of the best in the country. However, even with those favorable regulations, we still rank 49th in the nation in terms of physicians per capita,” explained Brian Whitlock is the President/CEO of the Idaho Hospital Association.

The Healthcare Openness and Access Project (HOAP) is a toolkit that permits each state to compare its laws, regulations, and markets with those of other states. It is meant to spike conversation on what works—and what doesn’t work—as the nation moves to improve the quality, options and access of Americans’ healthcare.

“All 44 counties in the state [Idaho] are underserved areas in behavioral health. And, we still have a substantial population of Idahoans who are unable to obtain health insurance coverage,” Whitlock added. “For a significant number of Idahoans, their access to health care is through the emergency room - the most expensive and inefficient way to receive care. The results of this report would suggest that Idaho has the flexibility within its regulatory framework to positively affect actual access to healthcare.”

Below are Idaho’s ranking on the 10 factors (sub-indexes) that measure the control patients and providers have over broad areas of health care:

  • Corporate: (Idaho ranks 8th): How much leeway do providers in your state have over the management and structure of their businesses?
  • Direct primary care: (Idaho ranks 4th): How amenable is your state to the direct primary care model for physician practices?
  • Insurance: (Idaho ranks 1st): Do your state’s insurers have flexibility to determine the pricing of health insurance policies?
  • Medical liability: (Idaho ranks 8th): How constrained are your state’s physicians by the threat of malpractice?
  • Occupational regulation: (Idaho ranks 2nd): Do medical professionals in your state have easy access to licensure?
  • Pharmaceutical access: (Idaho ranks 19th): Does your state allow experimental drug access?
  • Provider regulation: (Idaho ranks 4th): How freely can your state’s hospitals compete with one another?
  • Public health: (Idaho ranks 19th): Does your state allow easy access to substance abuse remedies?
  • Taxation: (Idaho ranks 18th): How burdensome are your state’s taxes on healthcare services?
  • Telemedicine: (Idaho ranks 12th): Does your state allow telemedicine?

“States control the most intimate aspects of health care and can alter them without seeking federal government approval. The actions that states take in these areas have an enormous effect on the cost and quality of health care,” noted one of the authors, Mercatus Center senior research fellow Robert Graboyes.

Top states following Idaho, in order, are Montana, Missouri, Mississippi, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Indiana, Colorado and Alaska.

States at the bottom of the list are Vermont, North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Georgia.

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