Insurers Not Helping to Improve Health Care

The quality of health care for millions of Americans who are insured by commercial or public plans has stopped improving, according to a recent report from The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). Released on Thursday, October 22, 2009, the 13th annual “State of Health Care Quality” report explained that this change is the first to occur in more than a decade.

While the report did not cite all negative aspects of the health care system, a few details from the report highlighted specific quality declines that occurred in 2008:

  • Mental health – The quality of care for mental health conditions and diabetes declined nationwide.
  • Imaging overuse – Overuse of imaging for lower back and breast cancer screening grew.
  • Child follow-up care – Only 34.1 percent of prescribed medication to treat ADHD are seeing a doctor for follow-up care.

In total, the report examined the performance of 979 managed care plans, which cover an estimated $116 million Americans.

Why the Failure to Improve?

According to the Richard Sorian, the vice president of public policy with the NCQA, failure to improve stems largely from the suffering economy. Also, the NCQA blames the pay-for-service health care model for this downward trend. As a result, many employers are simply looking for ways to cut costs, rather than looking for ways to improve the quality of the health care system.

However, according to Sorian, much of the responsibility for change falls in the laps of the insured. He notes the importance of consumers being more demanding of the health care system in seeing the necessary changes. In other words, if we don’t make our voices heard, it will be our own health that suffers.

Do you feel health care quality has declined in the past couple of years?