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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Report: Health Care Quality Continues to Improve for 84 Million Americans, but More Than 100 Million in the Dark

Business Editors/Healthcare Writers WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Sept. 25, 2007--The quality of care for more than 80 million Americans enrolled in 767 accountable health plans improved in 2006, but the gains were smaller than they have been in past years, according to a new report by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA).

The State of Health Care Quality 2007 report marks the eleventh consecutive year of health plan measurement and reporting on health care quality. Commercial health plans posted improvements in 30 of 44 quality of care measures, including important gains in childhood immunizations and colorectal cancer screening. Medicaid plans also reported impressive quality gains, improving on 34 of 43 measures.

The performance of health plans participating in Medicare lagged behind for a second consecutive year. Medicare managed care plans improved in only 7 of 21 measures of care. However, in 2006, 44 new Medicare managed care plans reported on quality for the first time, bringing the total to 211 publicly reporting plans this year. These results highlight the need for policymakers and plan leaders to refocus their quality improvement efforts by expanding the number and type of plans that are required to report on quality and to comparing that performance to the care delivered by the traditional Medicare fee-for-service program, for which no systematic quality reporting currently exists.

"For the 80 million Americans in accountable plans this is great news. These improvements mean better health and longer lives," said NCQA President Margaret E. O'Kane. "But we all need to be concerned about the 100 million Americans who are in the dark about their health plan's quality. The stakes are just too high."

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