Louisiana Last In Medical Care For Seniors

(Undated-AP) -- Louisiana ranks last among the states in a new study of medical care given to seniors enrolled in Medicare. Louisiana had some of its lower scores in the screening for breast cancer, immunizations, treatment of congestive heart failure, in the follow-up with diabetes patients and in some of the recommended screening for pneumonia and flu.

The American Medical Association published the study yesterday. The principal authors are doctors from the National Institute of Health and the federal agency that administers Medicare -- the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

As a yardstick for overall quality of care, the researchers used 22 generally recommended "best practices" for the treatment of numerous health problems, including congestive heart failure, breast cancer and diabetes. For instance, they counted how many times Medicare patients were given aspirin during heart attacks and how many pneumonia patients received antibiotics within eight hours of entering a hospital or had received recommended blood tests.

Nationally, the study indicates that medical care quality has improved substantially since a nearly identical study in 1998-1999. The report says hospitals improved their delivery of care by almost 12 percent. In Louisiana, quality of care has remained constant or possibly declined slightly since the first study in which Louisiana was ranked 49th among all states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

The new study, covering 2000-to-2001, ranks Louisiana 51st -- only ahead of Puerto Rico. Mississippi, Texas and Arkansas also were in the bottom five. The top five states were: New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, North Dakota and Utah.