VA Treatment of Diabetes Better Than Managed Care, Study Finds
People with diabetes who were treated in the Veterans Affairs system received better care than those with diabetes who received treatment through managed care plans, according to a study published Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. Researchers from the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, University of Michigan Medical School, CDC, Kaiser Permanente, Pacific Health Research Institute, Indiana University School of Medicine, New Jersey University of Medicine and Dentistry and University of California-Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine studied 1,285 people with diabetes in five VA systems in California, Michigan, Texas, Pennsylvania and New Jersey and 6,920 people with diabetes enrolled in eight managed care plans.
Researchers matched the patients in the two groups geographically and adjusted data to compensate for the demographics of the VA, which tends to include more males, seniors, patients with lower incomes and sicker patients than those in managed care plans. The study was funded by VA, CDC and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases.
According to the study:
- People with diabetes receiving treatment through the VA system received recommended annual blood tests 93% of the time, compared with 83% of the time for people in managed care plans.
- VA diabetes patients received recommended eye exams 91% of the time, compared with 75% of the time for those in managed care plans.
- VA diabetes patients also received recommended foot exams 98% of the time, compared with 84% of the time for other patients, according to the study.
- VA patients received cholesterol tests 79% of the time and "had better control of their cholesterol," compared with tests performed 63% of the time for patients in managed care plans, the AP/Sun reports.
According to an editorial accompanying the study, the study indicates a need to apply some of the VA's techniques for chronic disease treatment in the private health industry. Susan Pisano of America's Health Insurance Plans said, "It shows that if you focus on scientific evidence, reward good performance and follow guidelines, quality improves. These are the very same approaches that managed care has advocated and advanced." Study lead author Eve Kerr said, "The VA has made great strides in the past 10 years. What this tells us is that a nationally funded health care system can provide excellent quality of care" (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 8/17). The study is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.