Massachusetts overall performed well in its response to COVID, study finds

Massachusetts overall performed well in its response to COVID, study finds

Massachusetts ranked second in a new study that measures states’ overall response to COVID-19.

“The first vaccine became available to all states at the same time in late 2020. States took different approaches to distributing doses to people, especially early on when vaccine supplies were limited,” stated the “Scorecard on State Health System Performance,” a report Thursday released by the Commonwealth Fund, which found that only Hawaii topped the Bay State in how well it handled the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based foundation that supports independent research on health care issues, ranked all states based on 56 measures of healthcare access and quality, service use and cost, health disparities and health outcomes during 2020.

In the states that moved fastest to get shots in arms — Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine — 70% of the population age 12 and older had become fully vaccinated within 200 days of vaccine availability, the report said. The worst-ranked were Mississippi, Oklahoma and West Virginia.

“People have to be willing to get the shots,” said David Radley, one of the report’s authors.

The stark toll of the pandemic goes well beyond deaths from the virus itself. All states reported more deaths than typical, from COVID as well as other causes since the pandemic began in February 2020.

Historically stronger health systems like Massachusetts and Hawaii had the best health outcomes, including lower rates of preventable deaths and overall healthier populations, the report said.

Drug overdose deaths increased to record highs in 2020, as people coped with the pandemic and much more potent synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, entered the drug supply.

Massachusetts ranked sixth in the percentage change from 2019 to 2020, with a roughly 5% change in overdose death rates during that period.

The Bay State, however, also ranked first in the nation when it came to health insurance coverage and access to care. Massachusetts reported the lowest rate of uninsured adults at 3.6%.

But while health coverage held steady, use of health services declined. Spending per person in Medicare declined in all regions, reflecting steep drop-offs in health care use among people 65 and older.

In New England, spending dropped from just over $10,000 in 2019 to just under $9,500 in 2020.

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