Report ranks N.H. high in child health

When it comes to the state of children’s health care, New Hampshire ranks in the top 10 percent of the country, according to a national report.Released by The Commonwealth Fund – a Washington, D.C.-based foundation promoting accessible, efficient health care – the report found the Granite State to have the fifth-best overall children’s health care in the country.In fact, every state in New England made the top 10: Massachusetts and Iowa tied for first, Vermont took third, Maine was fourth, Rhode Island sixth, and Connecticut ninth.The Granite State came in second overall for both access and affordability and prevention and treatment, but was dragged down by its 13th-place ranking for children’s potential to lead healthy lives. Bringing down the state in the latter category are higher-than-average percentages of high school students who smoke cigarettes and children with oral health problems.The report found that more than 96 percent of children under 18 are insured in New Hampshire, the second-highest percentage in the country. Slightly more than 80 percent of those currently insured children receive adequate coverage to meet all their needs, it said.The report also ranks the Granite State third for affordability, with the average premium for employer-based family coverage 14.5 percent of median family income.While New Hampshire’s health-care costs frequently rank high in surveys – in 2008, the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies found the median cost in N.H. to be more than $2,000 higher than the median cost of the five-lowest states – this apparent discrepancy is likely explained by the fact that the state also has the highest median income in the country at $65,028.When it comes to prevention and treatment, the report found New Hampshire best in the country for percentage of kids with a “medical home,” which refers to a team-based approach between family and primary care provider that focuses on accessible and ongoing preventive care.However, it also found that only 63 percent of kids needing mental health counseling and treatment received it over the prior year – low enough to garner the state a 26th-place ranking.Until the start of this decade, “the number of uninsured children had been rising rapidly as the levels of employer-sponsored family coverage eroded for low- and middle-income families,” according to the report.This trend was reversed through Medicaid expansion and enactment of the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, which – in addition to other public programs – fund health care for more than one-third of all children nationally, the report said.In New Hampshire, 62 percent of Medicaid enrollees are children, according to an October 2010 report by N.H. Healthy Kids, a nonprofit providing access to affordable health and dental coverage to uninsured teens and children in the state.Kathleen Callahan can be reached