FILE - Registered Nurse RN Healthcare Health Care Medicine Hospital

(The Center Square) – A recent study gave Kentucky low marks for health care quality and outcomes, even though the state earned a high ranking for access to care.

The report, from personal finance technology company MoneyGeek, ranked Kentucky 43rd overall for the quality of care. In compiling the rankings, the study looked at outcomes, cost and access, using data from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

Deb Gordon, co-director of the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates, said Kentucky is “an interesting case” in terms of health care. 

The rankings show Kentucky was fifth-worst nationally for health outcomes, and the state trailed only neighbors West Virginia and Tennessee regarding rates of preventable deaths.

But, at the same time, the study rated Kentucky 10th nationally for health care access.

Gordon said a 2014 decision by then-Gov. Steve Beshear's expanding Medicaid access and creating a health insurance exchange helped provide coverage for roughly 500,000 Kentuckians. Those steps cut the state’s uninsured rate from 17% in 2013 to 6% four years later.

However, just having access doesn’t solve everything.

Gordon noted Kentucky continues to deal with high poverty rates. TalkPoverty.org reported the state had the fourth-worst rate, 16.3%, among the states and the District of Columbia in 2020.

High poverty, Gordon noted, correlates with obesity and smoking, which negatively impact health.

Kentucky’s not alone. Of the bottom 10 states in the MoneyGeek health care report, six other states besides Kentucky also ranked among the 10 highest poverty states according to TalkPoverty.

“Taken together, these data suggest that access to care is vitally important, but it’s not the whole story,” Gordon said. “Without policies and resources devoted to reducing health risks and to alleviating the health burdens that go along with poverty - such as food insecurity, poor access to healthy food, and higher rates of substance use, to name a few - the health of populations will suffer.”

The report also found the cost of private insurance in Kentucky was near the national average. The $5,617 paid yearly ranked 24th nationally and was $135 cheaper than the average U.S. resident paid.

Meanwhile, Kentucky also ranked 18th nationally based on government spending per capita on health care programs.

According to the report, the top three states for care are Hawaii, Iowa and Colorado.

Among Kentucky’s neighboring states, Illinois finished 11th overall, and Virginia was 15th. Ohio ranked 33rd, and Indiana was 36th.

Missouri placed just ahead of Kentucky at 42nd nationally. Tennessee finished 47th, and the report found West Virginia worst in terms of health care.