According to the Commonwealth Fund report released Wednesday, death rates in the United States from suicides, alcohol, and drug overdoses have reached an all-time high, while some states have been hit harder than others.
The report analyzed 2017 data of all 50 states and Washington, D.C., taking a thorough look at 47 factors, which have a great impact on health outcomes, such as insurance coverage, obesity, smoking, access to doctors, tooth loss, among others. The investigators of the report assigned each state a score.
The deaths rates of despair are up nationally; however, the investigators were struck by regional differences in the death rates.
Senior researcher of the Commonwealth Fund David Radley said, “When we look at what’s going on in mid-Atlantic states – West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania – those are the states that have the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in the country.” The death rates in those states are double the national average of drug overdose rates.
According to the report, the highest drug overdose death rates were found in West Virginia, which has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic. The report also found that these rates increased by 450 percent between 2005 and 2017.
Radley told NBC News, “The rate of growth in drug overdose deaths in West Virginia is absolutely mind-boggling.”
The investigators pointed out that not only prescription painkillers and heroin but also fentanyl and other potent synthetic drugs such as cocaine are driving death rates. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, fentanyl is similar to morphine, but approximately 100 times more potent.
The report found that apart from West Virginia, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Delaware and New Hampshire were amongst the next highest drug overdose death rates.
It has also been found that in Montana, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Oregon, and Wyoming, the death rates were high from suicide or from alcohol than from drug overdose.
Radley said, “We really think of health care access of being the foundation of a high-performing health care system. Without the ability to go to a doctor when you need to, you’re much more likely to end up getting sick in a way that puts you in the hospital with a manageable disease like diabetes.”
Five of the 17 states that had not expanded access to Medicaid through Obamacare had the highest rates of uninsured adults in 2017.
The investigators wrote, “States’ decisions about whether to expand their Medicaid programs have had stark implications for their uninsured rates.”
The rising cost of health care has also been affecting people who do have health care coverage, according to the report. Radley noted, “Health care costs are going up, and that translates into higher premiums. Higher premiums get passed on to employees.” The investigators said, “There is evidence that expansion of Medicaid access has had a positive impact even in the state leading the nation in drug overdose death rates: West Virginia. The state expanded Medicaid access in 2014, which paved the way for increased access to substance abuse treatment.”