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,Â which goes back to that point above about healthier living.