BANGOR (AP) – Medicare patients in Maine have a lower mortality rate for heart attacks and angioplasties than in almost any other state, a study released this week found.

Only Coloradans survive more heart attacks, and only New Yorkers die less frequently following anagioplasty, a procedure to open and support clogged or collapsed vessels that provide blood to the heart, according to the study by Health Grades, a Denver-based independent health care evaluator.

The study uses Medicare data to analyze mortality rates among patients hospitalized for five common diagnoses or procedures. All reports are weighted for age, gender, secondary diagnoses and other considerations.

With the five scores averaged, Maine ranks 16th in the nation. The state’s Medicare beneficiaries rank 17th in the nation in surviving pneumonia and 19th in pulling through coronary bypass surgery.

But congestive heart failure patients fare worse than they do in 31 other states, the study found. That performance is even worse than researchers predicted, given Maine’s elderly population and rural health system.

Overall, Health Grades found that Northern states provide better care than those in the South. North Dakota ranks first in its five-condition average, and Mississippi last.

States ranking consistently worst in all categories included Arkansas, Alabama, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Mississippi. States that consistently received the highest ratings were Florida, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Dora Mills, director of the Maine State Bureau of Health, said the Health Grades study, which is based on Medicare data alone, is of limited value.

She said that as part of the new Dirigo health plan, the state will start collecting all patients’ claims data. The analysis of that information will provide more useful measures of Maine’s health care system, Mills said.

On the Net:

Health Grades study:

AP-ES-09-24-03 1100EDT

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