Peggy O’Kane has been running the NCQA for longer than she might care to remember. NCQA is an independent, non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the quality of health care everywhere, but it’s best known for creating the HEDIS measures that rate health insurer and provider performance. I’ve been a fan of Peggy since I met her in the mid-1990s. Today she shows she’s still fighting the good fight. This is her first contribution to THCB —Matthew Holt
Suppose you’re one of the 22 million Americans living with diabetes and you have to decide where you want to live. Your choices: Providence, Rhode Island, or Houston, Texas. Providence is pretty and you’d have easy access to lobster dinners and weekends at the Cape. But Houston is warmer in the winter and just a hop, skip and a jump from a weekend in Cancun. A hard decision but you’re leaning toward Houston because, let’s face it, you hate shoveling snow!But then you take a look at the 13th annual State of Health Care Quality Report by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (plug alert: I run the place) and you find out the quality of care for diabetics is nearly 11 percentage points better in New England than it is in the South Central region of the U.S. and you begin to reconsider. In fact, you look at the newest data released October 22 and you find that the quality of care in the Texas region of the country is consistently the worst while care in New England is almost always the best. Providence here I come!
Here’s the problem: Most people don’t have a choice of moving from Texas or Oklahoma or Alabama to Massachusetts, Connecticut or Rhode Island. They have to live with the health care system they have. For a diabetic, those 11 points can translate into more kidney problems, loss of vision, toe or foot amputations or, heaven forbid, a shorter lifespan.The thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. True, care isn’t going to be identical in all parts of the country. And, true, the population of Dallas may have a lot more health problems than the people in Hartford. But 11 points is too big a gap to explain away with demographics.