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Hey Iowa, Nice Job Being a ‘Least-Stressed’ State!

More and more often, other states are catching on to the great things we have going on in the Hawkeye State1! Our state and communities continue to receive many national accolades from various publications, many of which are quite flattering, such as:

A recent national benchmark ranking, coming from WalletHub, suggests that Iowa is the fourth LEAST-stressed state when compared to all other states (including the District of Columbia). Iowa’s placement follows only (in order), Minnesota, North Dakota and Utah. For comparison purposes, Iowa was the third least-stressed state in 2017 (Minnesota and North Dakota were No. #1 and No. #2, respectively). There appears to be something magical about the upper Midwest.

To determine the rankings, WalletHub compared the 50 states (and D.C.) across four dimensions (and 38 relevant metrics). The four dimensions were:

  1. Work-related stress (7 metrics)
  2. Money-related stress (10 metrics)
  3. Family-related stress (6 metrics)
  4. Health- & safety-related stress (15 metrics)

As we know, stress is related to both external and internal factors that affect each of us. Sometimes we are unaware of how stress can impact our health. External factors may include our job, relationships with others, our home, other physical environmental situations, challenges, difficulties, and expectations we are confronted with on a daily basis. How we respond to, and deal with, the external stress-inducing factors affects our nutritional status, emotional well-being, overall health and fitness levels, and the amount of sleep we get. Each of us deal with stress differently, but if we are not careful, it can wreak havoc on our personal (and professional) lives.

For each of the four dimensions mentioned above, the state of Iowa ranked as having the 16th least work-related stress, sixth least money-related stress, fifth least family-related stress, and third least health- & safety-related stress. Metrics that relate to the work-related dimension, the lowest scoring of the four dimensions, include:

  • Average hours worked per week
  • Average commute time
  • Average leisure time spent per day
  • Job security
  • Unemployment rate
  • Underemployment rate
  • Income growth rate

The economy can have a big influence on this particular dimension. Iowa has a very low unemployment rate (2.9% in 2017), a factor that causes employers to struggle with finding qualified workers in jobs difficult to fill. According to the Iowa Workforce Development, the weekly wage increase in 2016 was below two percent (2017 data will be available very soon), showing that wages are depressed.

Iowa Healthiest State Initiative

To help Iowa avoid resting on its’ laurels, a wonderful ‘movement’ occurring in Iowa is the Iowa Healthiest State Initiative (HSI). Executive Director Jami Haberl, and her team are working to make a meaningful difference in how Iowa communities and employers can improve the daily lives of how we live, work and play. One HSI approach attempts to address the stresses we face in our environments, and will annually monitor this stress through our resiliency. Resiliency is an often-used term that describes the ability to overcome challenges of all kinds – such as trauma, tragedy, personal crises, everyday problems – and our ability to bounce back stronger, wiser and healthier. If you are not aware of the HSI resources, please check them out here.

Receiving national accolades are wonderful, but these don’t just happen out of sheer luck. It takes hard (and smart!) work and perseverance, coupled with the belief that implementing new initiatives and approaches to positively impact our communities and those living in it will be best for all of Iowa. 

As the saying goes, “Prepare and prevent, not repair and repent.”

Let’s keep it up, Iowa!

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1Sorry Cyclone fans, but the official state nickname for Iowa is ‘The Hawkeye State.’  Honestly, I’m trying to be as impartial as possible!

Healthcare Waste & Inefficiency – an Inconvenient Truth?

Flushing Money Down The ToiletThe Iowa House and Senate leaders recently announced a joint budget agreement on spending levels for the state of Iowa’s 2015 fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2014. The budget target agreed upon? $6.97 billion – a great deal of money, for sure.

This amount, however, pales in comparison to the net worth of some of the billionaires around the world. For example, when compared to Forbes‘ latest list of the world’s billionaires, the announced 2015 Iowa budget would fall somewhere between #191 and #196 of the most wealthy people on the list. Bill Gates sits atop at $76 billion while Warren Buffett weighs in at the #4 position, with a ‘pithy’ net worth of $58.2 billion.

In short, Bill Gates’ net worth is 11 times greater than Iowa’s annual state budget. A fun fact to recite at tonight’s dinner table, right?

Try this not-so-fun fact: According to a 2010 report from Institute of Medicine (IOM), the U.S. healthcare system wastes about one-third of the $2.6 trillion we all spend on healthcare. This equates to about $765 billion wasted annually — and growing!

According to IOM, the six areas of waste and inefficiency are:

  • Missed Prevention Opportunities – $55 Billion
  • Unnecessary Services – $210 Billion
  • Inefficiently Delivered Services – $130 Billion
  • Prices that are Too High – $105 Billion
  • Excess Administrative Cost – $190 Billion
  • Fraud – $75 Billion

Based on these stats, one might reason that our health insurance premiums are about a third higher than they should be. No wonder our health premiums continue to increase more than the consumer price index, year-after-year! Let’s be honest, merely tweaking our insurance plans (by increasing deductibles, copayments, offering limited-provider networks, implementing value-based benefit plans, etc.) will NOT remotely make up the difference that we lose in annual waste.

It is about time that we confront this ‘inconvenient truth’ (thank you, Al Gore) and think differently about truly reforming our healthcare system.

To put the $765 billion of healthcare waste and inefficiency into context with other budgeted costs, consider the following:

So, the next time you wonder why your health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket healthcare costs are so high, you might remind yourself that we currently live with a VERY wasteful healthcare system that is in desperate need of an efficient and high-value care transformation.

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