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Minnesota No. 1 in senior health

Feeling old and achy? Could be worse. At least you live in Minnesota.

This state once again leads the nation in the overall health of its seniors, according to the 2014 America’s Health Rankings Senior Report issued this week by United Health Foundation.

This is the second year UHF has prepared the report, and the second year Minnesota has been rated No.1.

The report analyzes seniors’ health on a national and state-by-state basis across 34 measures.

It draws on data from more than a dozen government agencies and research organizations, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Department of Labor.

The report and accompanying materials are available online at

“Our strong performance in senior health shows the benefit of taking a broad view of health,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger said.

“You need quality medical care of course, but there’s more to health than what happens at the doctor’s office. Seniors also enjoy health benefits from living in walkable neighborhoods, having access to nutritious food, and having opportunities to participate in their communities.”

The report listed several highlights for Minnesota in the past year, including:

Minnesota had the highest percentage (68.2 percent) of able-bodied seniors.

Minnesota had the highest percentage (89.6 percent) of seniors with prescription drug coverage.

Minnesota had the nation’s lowest prevalence of seniors with cognitive difficulties.

Minnesota had the second-lowest percentage (8.6 percent) of seniors facing food insecurity.

Minnesota had the fourth-lowest number (1,585) of premature deaths per 100,000 population.

And Minnesota had the second-highest rate (39.3 percent) of volunteerism among adults 65 or older.

However, the report also cited several areas of concern:

Obesity among Minnesota seniors increased from 23.7 percent in 2013 to 26.3 percent in 2014.

Health disparities persist, as demonstrated by the fact that 59.2 percent of Minnesota seniors with a college education reported excellent or very good health, while only 25.2 percent of seniors with less than a high school education reported excellent or very good health.

And Minnesota ranked just 37th in community support for impoverished seniors (dollars per adult 65 or older in poverty).

All in all, it’s not bad news for Minnesota seniors. This is a pretty good place to grow old.

***The Commonwealth Fund, a non-partisan, independent health care research group, had a cheer for U.S. Sen. Al Franken.

Franken’s Medical Loss Ratio requires insurers to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on actual health care — not administrative costs, marketing, or CEO salaries.

If insurers don’t meet the requirement, they must rebate the difference.

According to a recent Commonwealth Fund report, Franken’s provision has already resulted in $3 billion in benefits to consumers in Minnesota and across the country through rebates and reduced spending on overhead by insurers.