By ANDY ZIEMINSKI, Capital News Service
ANNAPOLIS - Women's health in Maryland is unsatisfactory and slipping, according to a report card Wednesday that graded the states on 27 indicators of women's health.
Maryland received a failing grade on 13 indicators and overall was ranked 25th nationally, said the report from the National Women's Law Center and Oregon Health and Science University.
That is down from the last report card, in 2004, when Maryland had eight failing grades and was in 15th place. The state's kept its cumulative grade of unsatisfactory on the report card, which graded states on subjects ranging from health care access to how many servings of fruits and vegetables women eat.
"The overall conclusion in this year's report is that as each year passes, the nation and the states are falling unfortunately farther behind in the quest to meet the goals for women's health," said Judy Waxman, vice president for health at the National Women's Law Center.
Maryland's worst grades were in women's death rates by heart disease, stroke, and lung and breast cancer.
Its best performance came in preventive screening services, including pap smears, mammograms, and tests for colorectal cancer and cholesterol. Maryland was third for the percentage of women who got a pap smear in the last three years and the percentage who got a cholesterol check in the past five years.
"Preventive health care really is the foundation of a strong health care system. So it's good news for Maryland that they're doing well on preventive health screening," said Amy Allina of the National Women's Health Network.
A major weakness for the state and the country is access to health care, which Allina called the "overarching problem."
The 2004 report said 13.1 percent of Maryland women between 18 and 64 did not have health insurance. That has since increased to 14.7 percent, but is still better than the national average of 18 percent, the report said.
Part of the problem is that Maryland's Medicaid coverage limit is one of the country's best for children but one of the worst for adults, said Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative. Children can get coverage if their family earns 300 percent of the federal poverty limit, while adults are cut off at 38 percent.
"For us, it's really shameful that the richest state in the nation is so low in providing adequate health care for women," he said.
The report also evaluated whether states have implemented policies in 63 broad areas considered crucial to women's health, from expanding Medicaid access to gun control. The authors determined Maryland meets the standard in 32 areas, one of nine states to comply in more than half the standards.
The report's grades are based on how close a state is to achieving established benchmarks for each indicator. For example, Maryland got an unsatisfactory grade in smoking because 18.3 percent of women age 18 and older smoke, when the goal is to reach 12 percent.
Many of the goals came from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Healthy People 2010 initiative, Waxman said.
No state received an overall grade of satisfactory—the highest—and only three states got a satisfactory-minus grade.
Vermont finished first and Mississippi was 51st in the report, which included the District of Columbia. The country got an overall unsatisfactory grade.