AHRQ report: Access to care and quality improve, but disparities remain

While the overall quality of healthcare improved from 2000 through 2015, disparities in care persisted, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's 2016 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report released in July.

The report marks the 14th consecutive year AHRQ has conducted a comprehensive assessment on the general quality of healthcare in America. The report's findings are based on more than 250 quality and disparity measures compiled by researchers using data from multiple federal sources including CMS, CDC and the National Center for Health Statistics.

Here are three key takeaways from the report:

1. Access to care: A majority of access measures (65 percent) indicated access to healthcare did not significantly improve from 2000 to 2014. However, from 2010 through 2016, the percentage of uninsured people ages 18 to 29 years decreased from 30.6 percent to 15.4 percent. Additionally, insurance coverage for individuals under 65 years improved from 2010 through 2016.

2. Quality: The overall quality of care improved from 2000 through 2015. However, improvements in quality varied by category: 80 percent of person-centered care measures improved, nearly two-thirds of patient safety measures displayed improvement, 60 percent of healthy living measures improved, more than 50 percent of effective treatment measures improved and about half of care coordination measures improved. However, about 70 percent of care affordability measures remained static.

3. Disparities: While some healthcare disparities improved from 2000 through 2015, many persisted, especially among poor and uninsured patients. While 20 percent of disparity measures indicated a reduction in disparities among Blacks and Hispanics, most disparities have persisted for all racial and ethnic groups since 2000. More than 50 percent of disparity measures suggested poor and low-income households experience worse care than high-income households. Almost two-thirds of disparity measures indicated those with private insurance experienced better care than the uninsured.

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