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Quality Index Points Out Where California Lags

California provides poor quality health care in several categories such as respiratory care and immunization rates, according to a just-released national evaluation, which compares health quality markers from state to state.

California had high scores in home health care and maternal care. Overall, the state rating was smack in the middle of the average range.

“We are mandated to do national reports on health care quality,” spokesperson Karen Migdail of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) said. “Given the local nature of health care, states wanted to know what’s particular for their area. This provides a good snapshot of health care quality in a particular state.”

In California’s case, health care quality most often scored in the average range of about a hundred different categories of health care quality.

There were several areas red-flagged asscoring below the majority of states. Scanning those red markers can be extremely helpful for officials in individual states, according to AHRQ medical officer Ernest Moy.

“I have to admit, most people don’t look much at how they’re doing well,” Moy said. “The idea for most people is to see the ones where you’re doing worse, so you know it’s possible to do better. And you could see which states are doing better and go talk to them, and see how they’re doing better. That’s the idea, anyway.”

The index is particularly useful because health officials can also categorize comparisons using race data — and this year there’s a new comparison factor, by payer.

“We can click on and see how Medicaid patients do in California compared to other states,” Moy said.

Not too badly, it turns out. California’s Medi-Cal patients fall in the average category, which might be a relief to cash-strapped state health officials.

“Look, there are lots of states with problems, lots of places where there’s room for improvement,” Moy said. “Even if you score well, that doesn’t mean it’s all ideal. It’s scored on a curve, which means it’s all relative.”

There are five possible scores, and about half of the states end up in the average range of a given health measure, Moy said, with roughly 10% scoring in the highest category, and 10% in the lowest category.

If you assign these five rankings as letter grades, California would get an A in home health, maternal and child care, and would get a B both in cancer and diabetes measures. California would get a D in respiratory measures and hospital measures.

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Capitol Desk Public Health