Interactive Map: Tracking Chronic Conditions Among NJ’s Medicare Clients

New government data is sobering: The state has the highest rates nationally for diabetes and heart failure; second-highest rates for cancer and stroke, among other maladies

Use the “visible layers” box in the middle of the top of the map to toggle among the most common chronic conditions. Hovering over or clicking on a county will bring up more information.

New Jersey has some of the highest prevalence rates in the nation of a dozen of 19 chronic conditions tracked by federal officials.

It also is the state with the second-largest percentage, after Florida, of Medicare recipients with four or more chronic conditions: 42.3 percent of nearly 1.4 million New Jerseyans covered by Medicare had multiple problems in 2015, according to a recent data release from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

An analysis of data released annually for Medicare beneficiaries shows that New Jersey had the highest rate of all the states on the government insurance plan for diabetes and heart failure; the second-highest rate of cancer, stroke, and ischemic heart disease or coronary artery disease; and the third-highest rate of atrial fibrillation and hyperlipidemia or high cholesterol. The state also ranked among the top 10 states for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, HIV/AIDS, hypertension, osteoporosis, and asthma.

While the majority of those on Medicare in New Jersey were senior citizens, about 14 percent were under age 65. About 16 percent of the state’s residents are covered by the program. The majority of those, about 82 percent, have chosen the traditional fee-for-service Medicare plan, with the rest, or about 250,000, opting for Medicare Advantage, which is more like an HMO or PPO.

CMS puts out a variety of data on beneficiaries as a way to study the differences among states and help officials improve the planning, financing, and delivery of care for people with chronic conditions. In New Jersey’s case, the high prevalence rates for most chronic conditions, as well as for those with multiple conditions, is likely due in part to the availability of treatment options that allow people to seek help for their illnesses.

“There is evidence that regional variation in care is associated with the supply of healthcare resources, which can affect the state-level prevalence” of multiple chronic conditions, according to a 2013 report in “Medicare and Medicaid Research Review.” “In states where there are more healthcare resources, more care is received and more claims are generated. Thus, in places where more healthcare resources are available, the likelihood that diagnoses will be identified may be increased.”

Because New Jerseyans, and seniors in particular, rely on Medicare for their healthcare, the New Jersey AARP is concerned about the potential for cuts in the program. Jeff Abramo, the group’s communications director, wrote recently that the organization plans to hold the new president to his pledge not to cut Medicare, despite a plan by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) to change the federal health insurance plan into a system that gives beneficiaries a federal subsidy to help them buy private healthcare coverage.

“If the amount isn’t enough to cover their needed health care — tough luck,” Abramo wrote. “The risky scheme would end the guarantee of health insurance coverage to American seniors and dramatically increase costs for current and future retirees.”

New Jerseyans count on Medicare more in some areas than in others.

Ocean County, for instance, was among the 20 counties across the country where the greatest proportion of Medicare beneficiaries had four or more chronic conditions. Roughly half of those with traditional Medicare, had some combination of diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, or other chronic illnesses. Ocean also had the nation’s 10th-highest rate of Medicare enrollees with high cholesterol – 63.6 percent — while Salem County had the fifth-highest rate of people who had a stroke – 6.6 percent.

To see how the rates of chronic conditions for the states and all the counties compare, CMS has also created an online mapping tool.

Prevalence Rates for Chronic Conditions

Condition NJ US
Alzheimer’s Disease/Dementia 11.2% 9.9%
Arthritis 31.7% 30.0%
Asthma 8.9% 8.2%
Atrial Fibrillation 9.6% 8.1%
Autism Spectrum Disorders 0.2% 0.2%
COPD 10.9% 11.2%
Cancer 9.4% 7.8%
Chronic Kidney Disease 18.2% 18.1%
Depression 14.3% 16.7%
Diabetes 31.9% 26.5%
HIV/AIDS 0.4% 0.4%
Heart Failure 16.0% 13.5%
Hepatitis 0.9% 0.8%
Hyperlipidemia 54.1% 44.6%
Hypertension 61.4% 55.0%
Ischemic Heart Disease 32.8% 26.5%
Osteoporosis 6.6% 6.0%
Schizophrenia/Psychotic Disorders 3.2% 3.7%
Stroke 34.9% 4.0%

Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

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