What ails North Dakota

UND’s Center for Rural Health released this report on the state of health care in North Dakota today. It doesn’t say too much that people who pay attention to health care don’t already know, but it compiles all the information together so it’s easier to connect the dots.

This much we know:

  • Demand for health care is high and will rise as the state’s population ages. I talked about this in January when I quoted the med school dean talking about how older people need way more health care than the rest of us.
  • Access for health is a challenge and will become a bigger challenge as the state’s rural population drops. This is because roughly the same number of health care facilities will be needed to cover the same geographical area, but they’ll be serving fewer people, which means they’ll be less efficient and less well funded.
  • It’s already hard to bring health care workers to North Dakota and it’ll get even harder. With demand rising, we’ll need more of them than today, but the rest of the country will need more of them, too. And the United States isn’t producing as many of these workers as it needs.
  • Funding is tough and who knows if it’s going to get tougher. Hospital profits are low because reimbursements from Medicare and insurers are low. There’s some upward movement as far as Blue Cross Blue Shield so this situation may change.
  • To ease the demand for health care, health care officials are encouraging healthier habits, like drinking less and losing some weight. Heart disease, which excessive boozing and being too fat encourages, is a big problem. Smoking is not a huge problem, which surprised me, and neither is lung cancer. At one point, I’d meant to find this info when the public health lobby was making a big stink about smoking in bars as if cigarette smoke was made of plutonium.

By the way, I want to give a shout out for Blue Cross’ program where you get a $20 reimbursement to your fitness club fees if you go 12 times a month. That’s a fantastic incentive and I haven’t missed a month since I started four or five months ago.

  • Here’s something else that sort of surprised me, at least the extent of it: Paying for health care is killing us. Most of us are insured, but our employers either aren’t providing health care or aren’t paying as large a share of premiums as employers elsewhere. For shame, private sector. Now the public sector wants to give it a try.
  • I’m surprised, too, by the numbers that suggest we get more money for public health from the feds than other states but we spend less of our own money than other states. A lot of the work public health agencies do with infants and awareness campaigns are preventative in nature, which goes back to that point above about healthier living.
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6 Responses to What ails North Dakota

  1. Sauer says:

    Two things: The incidence of lung cancer appear low i ND when compared to the smoking population because heavy smokers (especially those with poor diets, another ND indication) often die of heart disease long before lung cancer has a chance to develop into a real threat.

    And second: with regard to your earlier great look at the UND diversity debate / cost of city services, and how some seem to have a problem with creating “diversity” or the city spending money on itself… with the number of physicians needed in the coming years, one of the primary ways a city like GF can make itself more attractive to such highly-trained in-demand is to create a welcoming and attractive place for such talent. Bare bones municipalities with little to offer in the way of parks, a range of restaurants and activities, etc. generally do not appeal to professionals who have generally lived in several large cities through school/residency. Just something to keep in mind when thinking about the unforeseen benefits of civic development which may often, to residents, seem like waste.

  2. Avatar of Tu-Uyen says:

    You might be right, but the point is both smoking rates and lung cancer rates are not excessively high by national standards. I’m always skeptical of fearmongering.

  3. Sauer says:

    Sorry, “fearmongering?”

  4. Bob says:

    What everyone should be really scared of right now is the thought of the Federal Government taking over health care. Read the Article in the paper about health care on Indian reservataions, or talk to a local veteran.

  5. Avatar of Tu-Uyen says:

    Sauer: By fearmongering, I’m referring to arguments that ventilation systems in bars can’t cut down on the effects of second hand smoke because there would always be some particle of smoke. That’s asinine. It’s not plutonium. A few ain’t gonna kill you any more than walking by a congested highway on a windless day.

    Interesting enough, Bob also provides a great example of fear mongering. Earth to Bob: That’s not under discussion at all. And don’t give me the slippery slope argument, which is just a fancy word for wild speculation.

  6. Bob says:

    Earth to Tu-Uyen,

    This is government health care. That is the discussion, if you can’t look at the two programs they are currently responsible for as a reason to keep them out of the private sector what can you look at? This isn’t slippery slope argument, this is look at what their track record is and see if you want them involved in your health care as well.