Variation in Health Care Access and Quality Among US States and High-Income Countries With Universal Health Insurance Coverage

Published June 28, 2021, in JAMA Network Open (opens in a new window)


Based on mortality estimates for 32 causes of death that are amenable to health care, the US health care system did not perform as well as other high-income countries, scoring 88.7 out of 100 on the 2016 age-standardized Healthcare Access and Quality (HAQ) index.


To compare US age-specific HAQ scores with those of high-income countries with universal health insurance coverage and compare scores among US states with varying insurance coverage.

Design, Setting, and Participants  

This cross-sectional study used 2016 Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factor study results for cause-specific mortality with adjustments for behavioral and environmental risks to estimate the age-specific HAQ indices. The US national age-specific HAQ scores were compared with high-income peers (Canada, western Europe, high-income Asia Pacific countries, and Australasia) in 1990, 2000, 2010, and 2016, and the 2016 scores among US states were also analyzed. The Public Use Microdata Sample of the American Community Survey was used to estimate insurance coverage and the median income per person by age and state. Age-specific HAQ scores for each state in 2010 and 2016 were regressed based on models with age fixed effects and age interaction with insurance coverage, median income, and year. Data were analyzed from April to July 2018 and July to September 2020.

Main Outcomes and Measures  

The age-specific HAQ indices were the outcome measures.


In 1990, US age-specific HAQ scores were similar to peers but increased less from 1990 to 2016 than peer locations for ages 15 years or older. For example, for ages 50 to 54 years, US scores increased from 77.1 to 82.1 while high-income Asia Pacific scores increased from 71.6 to 88.2. In 2016, several states had scores comparable with peers, with large differences in performance across states. For ages 15 years or older, the age-specific HAQ scores were 85 or greater for all ages in 3 states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Minnesota) and 75 or less for at least 1 age category in 6 states. In regression analysis estimates with state-fixed effects, insurance coverage coefficients for ages 20 to 24 years were 0.059 (99% CI, 0.006-0.111); 45 to 49 years, 0.088 (99% CI, 0.009-0.167); and 50 to 54 years, 0.101 (99% CI, 0.013-0.189). A 10% increase in insurance coverage was associated with point increases in HAQ scores among the ages of 20 to 24 years (0.59 [99% CI, 0.06-1.11]), 45 to 49 years (0.88 [99% CI, 0.09-1.67]), and 50 to 54 years (1.01 [99% CI, 0.13-1.89]).

Conclusions and Relevance  

In this cross-sectional study, the US age-specific HAQ scores for ages 15 to 64 years were low relative to high-income peer locations with universal health insurance coverage. Among US states, insurance coverage was associated with higher HAQ scores for some ages. Further research with causal models and additional explanations is warranted.

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Weaver MR, Nandakumar V, Joffe J, Barber RM, Fullman N, Singh A, Sparks GW, Yearwood J, Lozano R, Murray CJL, Ngo D. Variation in Health Care Access and Quality Among US States and High-Income Countries With Universal Health Insurance Coverage. JAMA Network Open. 28 June 202 doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.14730.