Maryland leads the Mid-Atlantic region for best health care during the COVID pandemic, according to a new analysis from the Commonwealth Fund. Maryland ranked 7th best nationwide, and also led the Mid-Atlantic in avoiding hospital use and costs, and racial/ethnic equity.
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The report measured state success from February 2020 to March 2022 in the following categories:
- Access and affordability
- Prevention and treatment
- Avoidable hospital use and cost
- Healthy lives
- Income disparity
- Racial and ethnic equity
Some of Maryland’s best indicators were employee-sponsored insurance spending per enrollee and the number of adults who smoke.
The report compared each state’s performance to a baseline score and measured whether they improved, worsened, or had no change in health care quality compared to pre-pandemic levels. For example, 14% of Maryladners smoked in 2016, but in 2020 that rate fell to 11%. Areas in which Maryland improved the most include preventable hospitalizations and potentially avoidable emergency department visits for those aged 65 and older.
Reducing hospitalization use and costs and improving community-based care—especially for aging Marylanders—has been a top priority for health care leaders over the course of the pandemic. Ongoing collaborations between the Health Services Cost Review Commission, hospitals, health plans, legislators, and other stakeholders are working to maximize Maryland’s unique Total Cost of Care model. The model aims to continue reducing unnecessary health costs, while simultaneously improving patient health outcomes.
However, the report identified other areas of Maryland health care that can further improve, particularly in the behavioral health sphere. Indicators where Maryland ranked near the bottom include drug overdose deaths and unmet need for adults with mental illness.
Data shows Maryland experienced 45 drug overdose-related deaths per 100,000 people in 2020, compared to the U.S. average rate of 28 deaths.
Maryland is taking steps to improve behavioral health care, starting with a data-based approach. Behavioral health organizations are partnering with CRISP, the state health information exchange, with a goal of standardizing quality measures and improving patient care coordination.