Healthcare quality among the various types of health plans improved in 2006, although Medicare plans continue to lag slightly, according to a National Committee for Quality Assurance report.
In its analysis of data from 767 plans representing 80 million Americans, the NCQA found that commercial plans improved on 30 of 44 clinical measures set by the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set, a tool created by the NCQA to collect data on quality of care and services provided by health plans.
This is the eighth straight year of improvement for commercial plans, which made important gains in childhood immunizations and colorectal-cancer screening, the report found. Medicaid plans also reported considerable quality gains, improving on 34 of 43 measures, although Medicare managed-care plans for the second year in a row showed little progress, improving in only seven of 21 measures.
At a news conference, NCQA President Margaret OKane said the addition of 44 new Medicare managed-care organizations to the reporting system may account for the lag in improvement, although its too early for us to tell. More plans are reporting data, but the healthcare system still has room for improvement, OKane said. The report estimates that 35,000 to 75,000 deaths per year could be avoided if the entire system performed as well as the top 10% accountable healthcare plans. -- by Jennifer Lubell
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