NCHC Writer
Default Image

Embargoed for Release: Monday, October 20, 1997

Pat Schoeni

Washington, DC (October 20, 1997) — While many consider the United States to have the finest health care in the world, a large and growing body of evidence indicates that there are widespread problems with the quality of much of America’s health care. Millions of Americans are injured and tens of thousands die unnecessarily each year because of errors or the overuse, underuse, or misuse of services. Moreover, these problems are not being recognized or addressed adequately in this country today.

The Coalition commissioned a study, conducted by the RAND Corporation, to determine the state of health care quality in the United States. The findings of the study indicate that, although a trillion dollars a year are spent on health care, many people are receiving more care than they need, many are receiving less than they need, and many are receiving the wrong kind of care. In addition, preventable and harmful errors are occurring frequently. This is true across the country, across different types of care and providers, and in different settings, including the nation’s preeminent health care institutions. And these problems long preceded the advent of managed care.

“The issue is critical, and yet we do not have an integrated, national system for assessing or assuring health care quality for America’s people,” said Coalition Co-Chair, former Governor Robert D. Ray, in commenting on the study. “We must find a better way to measure and improve quality. And quality does not consist only – or even mainly – of consumers being able to see the provider of their choice when and where they want to see them. Quality is receiving the right care, in the right setting, at the right time, and too often that is not what is occurring in today’s health care system,” he added.

The study, Why the Quality of U.S. Health Care Must Be Improved, was conducted by Mark A. Schuster, M.D., Ph.D, Elizabeth A. McGlynn, Ph.D. and Robert H. Brook, M.D., Sc.D. They reviewed a representative sample of the major studies on quality that have been published over the last 15 years. Their review indicates that, despite the extensive work that has been done on the issue, there are still major problems with health care quality and that those problems are not being adequately addressed.

The Coalition believes that we need to develop a broad, quality improvement strategy. Techniques exist to measure and assure quality of care, and providers and health plans can use this information to improve the care they provide. If the information is made available on a regular basis and in an understandable form, employers and consumers can use it when choosing among plans and providers, which also provides an additional incentive for quality improvement. Policy makers can use the information to determine the impact of public and private changes in the health care marketplace and delivery systems and to improve the effectiveness of those systems.

“The strategy must be one in which all parties involved in the health care system work together in an environment that looks to develop solutions to, not place blame for, the failures of the system,” said Henry E. Simmons, M.D., President of the Coalition. “With leadership and commitment from the public and private sectors, we can begin creating the necessary quality accountability framework to assure that the public receives consistently high quality health care,” he concluded.

The study was conducted with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The National Coalition on Health Care is the nation’s largest and most broadly representative health care alliance working to improve America’s health care. The Coalition is a nonpartisan organization comprised of almost 100 member organizations representing 100 million Americans in large and small businesses, labor unions, and the nation’s consumer organizations, religious faiths and primary health care providers. In existence since 1990, the National Coalition on Health Care has as its Honorary Chairmen former Presidents Carter and Ford.

Full copies of Why the Quality of U.S. Health Care Must Be Improved are available by contacting the National Coalition on Health Care at (202) 637-6830.

Key Findings on Quality of Care in the United States

More from releases