Healthcare quality is up in most areas measured, but the future benefits to Americans from measurable improvements in quality of care is uncertain because of shifts in the health insurance market, according to results of the latest annual survey of managed-care plans by the National Committee for Quality Assurance.
About 64.5 million Americans were covered by 289 health plans that publicly reported their data to the NCQA in 2004. The average plan performance improved on 18 of 22 measures reported and for the sixth straight year people covered by plans that measure and report performance more often received appropriate preventive care and treatment for chronic diseases, according to the report.
But 4.5 million fewer people were covered by reporting plans in 2004 than the year before as enrollment increased sharply in plans with PPOs and health savings accounts, which tend not to report on performance, according to the NCQA.
Boosters of HSAs in particular say the plans will lower healthcare costs by inducing consumers to become better healthcare shoppers, but the flow of information to drive those informed decisions is as yet largely unavailable in both PPO and HSA plans, said Margaret O'Kane, in a preface to the 76-page report.
"This shift in enrollment means that consumers have less and less information to guide their healthcare decisions," O'Kane said. "It also may mean that in the future there will be less of an incentive for health plans to improve."
The survey also pointed out wide variances in care between regions and between areas within the same state.
View a copy of the report.