HMOs in New Jersey have improved their performance in several health-related areas but still do not consistently deliver the best possible care, according to an annual state assessment.
The rankings, based on 12 areas of preventative care and treatment, show health care providers in New Jersey are making moderate gains in the overall quality of care they are giving.
The assessment, the eighth annual, includes information on eight commercial HMOs and six point-of-service plans. Horizon, Aetna and HealthNet “showed significant improvement over last year,” while other plans showed mixed results, according to the state.
The managed care plans scored the highest — 96 percent — in giving patients beta blockers after heart attacks but scored lowest — 26 percent — in properly managing people taking antidepressants.
The figure for administering beta blocker drugs, which can decrease heart attack risk and death, reflected no change from 2003, according to the report. Managing patients on antidepressants was up 3 percentage points.
The plans saw the greatest gains in the percentage of children with asthma receiving proper medication — from 63 percent in 2003 to 73 percent in 2004, and the percentage of cardiac patients with controlled cholesterol — from 66 percent to 73 percent.
State health officials said New Jersey’s scores have traditionally lagged behind regional and national averages, but the 2004 report indicated the state was closing the gap, and exceeding the averages in some areas.
The plans also saw increases in the percentage of:
• patients whose high blood pressure is controlled, from 55 percent to 59 percent.
• children who were properly immunized, from 72 percent to 75 percent.
• women screened for cervical cancer, from 78 percent to 80 percent.
Performance declined in one measurement: diabetic patients receiving eye exams, which fell from 50 percent in 2003 to 46 percent in 2004.
However, state health officials said plan performance in this area fell nationwide after the National Committee on Quality Assurance changed its definition of the measurement.
The 2004 HMO report card is available at www.state.nj.us/health/hmo2004
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