NCQA reveals immunization, substance abuse trends

In its 2013 State of Healthcare Quality Report, the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) exposed trends affecting people at opposite ends of life: Preschool immunization rates improved in some areas but remained low in others, while drug dependence treatment for Medicare beneficiaries declined.  

NCQA based its study on health plan data covering 136 million people, or 43 percent of the national population. "This means that we know more about the quality of U.S. healthcare than ever before," NCQA President Margaret O'Kane said in a briefing, Healthcare Finance News reported

The NCQA found more children enrolled in Medicaid HMO's receive recommended immunizations for influenza and rotavirus. Since 2010, the rotavirus immunization rate has risen by 13.2 percentage points in commercial HMOs and by 17.9 points in commercial PPOs.

But there's been no recovery in the 3.5 percentage point dip NCQA previously found in combination vaccination rates for commercial HMO children who receive other immunizations by age 2. NCQA linked this result to decisions by thousands of parents to refuse or delay recommended vaccinations for their children due to concerns about side effects.

NCQA reported each cohort of children vaccinated prevents 1.4 million cases of disease, reduces direct healthcare costs by $9.9 billion and saves $33.4 billion in indirect care fees.    

The study also found that since 2007, initiation of alcohol and other drug dependence treatment has declined sharply for Medicare enrollees. Among Medicare PPOs, the rate dropped 13.2 percentage points. Further, the number of beneficiaries with a new episode of alcohol or other drug dependence has ballooned, growing by 70 percent in Medicare PPOs since 2009.

NCQA linked these findings to increased prescription drug abuse and a growth of screening and treatment in primary care that identifies new treatment candidates.

To learn more:
- read the Healthcare Finance News article
-  see the NCQA announcement and full report (.pdf)