25 years later, NCQA still striving to improve

Twenty-five years after its inception, the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) remains the foremost authority on determining the quality of health plans. In the years to come, NCQA plans to build on its legacy and help consumers better access the information they need, founding and current president Peggy O'Kane said in an interview with Kaiser Health News.

O'Kane said the NCQA's strategy has always been to first examine the evidence and then deliver information. It has excelled at delivering good measures where there is good evidence, such as on preventive services and chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes. However, O'Kane admitted the organization doesn't excel as much at measuring quality in areas where the science is unclear, such as with cancer cases and treating the extremely elderly.

Health plans are slightly less than enthusiastic about the prospect of being asssessed by the NCQA, O'Kane says, with some plans questioning if evaluation is really necessary. But since it is part of the health law for exchange plans to be accredited by NCQA, O'Kane said that Americans have the right to make healthcare choices based on more than just price. "There is an understanding among plans that there is a need for quality measures," O'Kane said.

O'Kane noted, however, that the NCQA plans to improve in the future by helping to keep things simple for consumers. It will strive to "bundle information, present it in a clear way and allow consumers to dive down for more information if they want to" about health plans, she said.

In addition to providing customers with information about the quality of health plans, NCQA accredits health plans in every state, covering 109 million Americans or about 70 percent of all Americans enrolled in private coverage, KHN said. The organization also accredits accountable care organizations and provides data on immunization and substance abuse trends.

To learn more:
- here is the Kaiser Health News article