Health of Wisconsin seniors ranked 10th in the nation

Wisconsin has risen one spot in the latest state-by-state senior health care rankings from the United Health Foundation, which highlights issues like increased hospice care and higher rates of depression.

The state was ranked 10th in this year’s report, up one spot from last year. The health of Wisconsin seniors has been ranked near the top 10 for five years straight, after being ranked around 20th in 2013.

The improved rank reflects a number of Wisconsin’s strengths, including a low percentage of hospital deaths, a high percentage of able-bodied seniors, and lower levels of obesity.

Still, the report highlights significant concerns, including rising levels of excessive drinking, hospice use, depression and poverty.

For adults aged 65 or older, excessive drinking increased from 10.4 percent to 12 percent in the past two years. In the past six years, hospice care use increased from 34.5 percent to 57.9 percent of Medicare recipients who have since died.

Over the same period, depression in Wisconsin’s seniors has increased from 10.7 percent to 13.8 percent. And poverty has increased from 7.1 percent to 7.8 percent in the past two years.

In addition to the overall rankings, the United Health Foundation ranks each state for specific factors contributing to health. Wisconsin’s worst rankings were for excessive drinking, 50th; flu vaccination, 49th; and prescription drug coverage, 38th.

On the other hand, the state’s highest rankings were for dental visits, 3rd; health screenings, 4th; and volunteerism, 5th.  

Those factors were grouped into four main categories which were also ranked: community and environment, 15th; health behaviors, 17th; policy, 24th; and clinical care, 7th.

Despite a relatively poor vaccination rate for seniors in Wisconsin, the clinical care category was ranked highest, driven by the state’s relatively high rates of health screenings, low rates of hospital deaths, and high rates of diabetes management for seniors on Medicare.

The policy category got the worst ranking, due in part to Wisconsin not implementing as many policies aimed at reducing health care-related infections as other states. The state also has relatively low prescription drug coverage for senior Medicare enrollees, the report shows.

See the full report: