We recently used this space to praise Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital, which received an award for delivering outstanding patient services.

The national Press Ganey Guardian of Excellence Award was no big surprise for local residents — Valley Cottage Hospital is known for its top-quality patient services — but the Press Ganey honor puts the local hospital in the top 5 percent nationally for outstanding services.

That’s a good thing, because the personal finance website WalletHub has recently compiled data on the best and worst states for health care, and California did not fare well in general.

The in-depth analysis is especially troubling for Californians struggling with individual health-care coverage, and the overall inability of the Trump administration and/or Congress to settle on a national health-care strategy.

WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia using 35 key measures of health-care costs, accessibility and eventual patient services outcome. The metrics ranged from average monthly insurance premium, to physicians per capita, to share of insured population. WalletHub does a good job of cross-referencing complicated data, and while no such study can be absolute, this comes about as close as one could reasonably expect.

And for this state and its citizens, the outcome is not good.

The only positive aspect of the final report is that California ranks No. 1 when it comes to retaining medical residents. And that may not be much comfort, because that retention rate may be based more on doctors being able to afford to live in paradise than in the quality of medical care.

For example, California ranks dead last with regard to the high number of at-risk adults who have not seen a doctor in the past 24 months. That surely is a ticking time bomb.

This state is near the bottom — 48th place — when it comes to the number of physicians accepting Medicare, yet another fluttering red warning flag for folks who struggle to afford and/or find health-care services.

When it comes to accommodating sick or injured people, California again ranks near the bottom, 44th spot, in terms of hospital beds per capita. A truly frightening statistic if California suffers a catastrophic earthquake or other calamity.

The state gets higher marks in other categories, but not much higher. We rank 37th in the percentage of insured adults ages 18-64, 33rd in percentage of insured children up to 17 years of age, and 30th in the average monthly costs of insurance premiums.

California ranks about in the middle of the pack in number of doctors per capita, and about the same in the percentage of adults who haven’t visited a dentist in a year or more.

We are confident that if the same kind of analysis was done for the Santa Ynez Valley specifically, our results would be far more encouraging. But we also acknowledge the fact that a lot of local folks are living on the edge financially, and when push comes to shove on which monthly bills to pay, health-care services often get shunted to the bottom of the priorities list.

We know that last comment to be true because of the excellent work done by Valley charitable agencies, such as People Helping People, whose staff and volunteers stay busy year-round, because for some residents our paradise is just a pretty facade.

WalletHub’s analysis does put extra emphasis on the need for the Trump administration and Congress to come to terms on either improving on the Affordable Care Act, or enacting a viable replacement national health plan.


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