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Florida slips one notch in ranking of America’s healthiest states

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Hawaii is America's healthiest state, North Carolina improved the most, and Louisiana is ranked dead last in the 2015 America's Health Rankings Report from The United Health Foundation.
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Hawaii is America's healthiest state, North Carolina improved the most, and Louisiana is ranked dead last in the 2015 America's Health Rankings Report from The United Health Foundation.

Florida slipped from 32nd to 33rd this year on the list of America’s most healthy states, according to a ranking released Thursday by the United Health Foundation.

The Sunshine State was cited for its low rate of obesity, low incidence of pertussis and low levels of air pollution.

But Florida’s low high school graduation rate, high rate of people without health insurance and the nation’s worst incidence of Salmonella hurt its standing in the 26th annual America’s Health Ranking.

The annual report on the health status of residents in each state found that Florida adults were more physically active this year compared with 2014, but the immunization rate for Human papillomavirus, or HPV, among adolescent females had fallen 17 percent, from 34.3 percent to 28.5 percent, over the last year.

The state rankings by United Health Foundation, a nonprofit arm of insurer UnitedHealth Group, are based on four health determinants: behaviors, community and environment, policy and clinical care. The scoring methodology was developed and reviewed by public health experts.

The report estimates that 18.3 percent of Floridians lack health insurance. Only Texas, at 20.6 percent, had a higher rate of uninsured.

Florida is one of 20 states that have not used the Affordable Care Act to expand eligibility for Medicaid, the state-federal health plan for low-income Americans.

By virtue of a U.S. Supreme Court decision, states can extend Medicaid coverage to working-age adults who earn at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level – $27,724 for a family of three.

The federal government pays the entire cost to cover newly eligible Medicaid recipients under the health law in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Florida lawmakers have vehemently opposed Medicaid expansion as too costly, even though states would pay no more than 10 percent of medical costs for newly eligible enrollees after 2016.

Some 17.6 million Americans have gained health insurance coverage since the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010, dropping the nation’s uninsured rate to 12.6 percent, the lowest level ever.

For the fourth straight year, Hawaii was ranked the nation’s healthiest state, followed by Vermont, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Hampshire. North Carolina showed the largest improvement, jumping to 31st this year from 37th in 2014.

Nationally, the report noted declines in preventable hospitalizations and physical inactivity among all Americans and increases in child and adolescent immunizations. The report also found continued national declines in cigarette smoking, cardiovascular deaths and lower rates of infant mortality.

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