|U.S. Health Care Quality: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
The quality of U.S. healthcare was virtually stagnant in
2008, according to a report by the National Committee for Quality
Assurance (NCQA). This represented the first setback in quality after a
decade of improvements. NCQA is a private, non-profit organization
dedicated to improving healthcare quality.
The trend of stagnant healthcare was across-the-board for people covered by private insurance, HMOs, Medicare and Medicaid.
The report found no link between higher healthcare
spending and quality and also that low performing plans cost up to $12
billion annually in unnecessary care and lost productivity.
NCQA President Margaret E. O’Kane said one way to
improve the quality and efficiency of care is to require quality
reporting by all health plans and providers, "not just those who do so
NCQA’s 2009 State of Health Care Quality Report
poured through quality data submitted by 979 health plans, covering 116
million Americans. The plans submit data using NCQA’s Healthcare
Effectiveness Data and Information, a set of measures assessing how
often patients receive care that conforms to evidence-based guidelines.
The Report Did Uncover Some Good News
More providers kept more heart attack patients on
life-saving beta blocker drugs. They delivered flu shots and registered
near universal high-quality care for most of the 30 million Americans
with asthma. Gains were made in helping Medicaid beneficiaries stop
smoking, particularly important as 1 in 3 Medicaid beneficiaries in
health plans are smokers.
There were declines in several measures related to
diabetes care, the overuse of imaging for low-back pain and breast
The findings revealed that less than half the children
and adults, or individuals previously hospitalized for mental illness,
seldom see a doctor or are monitored by their doctor. Less than half of
all Americans are receiving colon cancer screenings or entering
treatment programs for drug and alcohol dependence.
O’Kane called on Congress to improve care, expand
quality measurement to the 60 percent of Americans not currently
covered by accountable health plans and revitalize the nation’s
primary care system.
Address: National Committee for Quality Assurance, 1100 13th Street NW, Suite 1000, Washington DC 20005; (202) 955-3500, www.ncqa.org.