Health Care Quality Improves
The quality of care for patients enrolled in private insurance plans in 2005 improved in 35 of 42 categories, including cervical cancer and colorectal cancer screenings and the controlling of high blood pressure in hypertension patients, according to a report released Wednesday by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, the AP/Seattle Post Intelligencer reports. NCQA accredits and certifies insurers.
According to the report, the percentage of children with private health insurance who received all their recommended immunizations increased from 72.5% to 77.7% in 2005. Medicare beneficiaries who smoked cigarettes also received more advice last year about quitting, the report finds.
Although many of the improvements are small from year to year, officials say the numbers become significant over a decade. For instance, 96% of heart attack patients last year were given drugs to lower their blood pressure and heart rate, compared with 10 years ago when 62% of heart attack patients were given such treatment.
However, quality measures declined for the percentage of women ages 50-69 with private insurance plans who received breast cancer screenings within the past two years: 73.4% to 72% in 2005. Similar declines were found in insurance plans covering Medicare and Medicaid patients, according to the report. Improvements were also lacking in mental health care.
Patients who are hospitalized for mental illness were only slightly more likely in 2005 to receive appropriate follow-up care than in 1998. According to the AP/Post-Intelligencer, one in four Americans is enrolled in a health plan that collects and reports data on the quality of care.
The report claims that long-term tracking of care measurements submitted by insurance companies -- a move supported by the White House and Congress -- helps improve the quality of care (Freking, AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 9/26).