While the rankings in this annual report are not the only way to assess a state's overall health, the United Health Foundation has gained a solid reputation as the "national report card" on public health. As in previous years, one of the overriding factors in Arizona's improvements has been a reduced rate of smoking in the state. Another major indicator of Arizonans' health is the number of residents who have entered the ranks of the insured through better access to health insurance. Other good news on the report states that Arizona citizens have reduced the rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease and preventable hospitalizations.
What are the highlights of Arizona's 2013 rankings?
Not all of the highlights on this report are positive, such as the fact that nearly 1.2 million adults in Arizona are physically "inactive," and nearly 1.4 million are obese. Also, a half million Arizona adults are diabetic. But there are also some positive trends. One is that binge drinking among adults is down from 18 percent to 15.3 percent. In just the past year, immunizations among children aged 19 to 35 months increased to 67.5 percent from 60.4 percent in 2012. One of the most marked improvements is in health insurance coverage, which at 17.7 percent is at a seven year low. This fact, along with the availability of preventive care benefits, may be what allows Arizona to be one of the lowest states for rates of preventable hospitalizations, cancer deaths and cardiovascular deaths.
To view the full ranking report for Arizona in America's Health Rankings, visit the Arizona – 2013 page on AmericasHealthRankings.com.
Challenges to good health in Arizona
The overall success of Arizona's health initiatives is not without its challenges, however. The state still has a high rate of drug-related deaths and a large disparity in health status between educated and uneducated citizens. For example, more than 53 percent of adults with a high school education or greater say their health is very good or excellent, compared to only 18.7 percent of adults with less than a high school education. The resulting gap in good health between groups is 35.1 percent.
Impact of Obamacare on Arizona's health rankings
In compliance with the Affordable Care Act, which is not in full swing nationwide, Arizona health insurance companies are also working to make their health plans more accessible and affordable. For lower income residents, one of the best benefits of this is the availability of fully-paid preventive care benefits with all insurance plans. This means no matter which plan you choose, from the cheapest to the most expensive, it includes full coverage for an annual check-up and blood work, plus an OB-GYN examination and a mammogram for women over 35. It remains to be seen how much these benefits will improve the overall health of Arizona residents, but it is already making a difference to many.
According to recent reports on the number of enrollees to Obamacare, not every Arizona resident is signing up, but there are some very good reasons to consider doing so. Many of the higher-deductive plans have low monthly premiums, and while they may have a higher annual deductible, people are taking advantage of tax savings by enrolling in a plan-sponsored Health Savings Account (HSA). Because these accounts can be rolled over from one year to the next, the benefits of signing up become more attractive over time. Members who save pre-tax dollars in an HSA to pay for medical expenses are also investing in their future, as they will be able to keep and invest any of the unused funds for retirement.
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