AHRQ: U.S. Health Care Access, Quality Improve, but Disparities Remain

U.S. health care access and quality are improving as demonstrated by a decrease in the rate of uninsured adults seen in the first half of 2014, according to a report recently released by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. However, the 2014 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report found that disparities in access to health care remain.

The annual report to Congress found that the “uninsurance” rate for adults ages 18–64 decreased from 22.3 percent in 2010 to 15.6 percent in the second quarter of 2014 owing to Affordable Care Act provisions. The report also indicates that there were larger declines in the rate of uninsurance among black and Hispanic adults ages 18–64 than among whites; blacks and Hispanics historically have had a higher uninsurance rate compared with that of whites.Some racial and ethnic disparities were eliminated, such as differences in vaccination rates of black children and Native American children compared with other children, but blacks and Hispanics still have lower access to care than whites for about one-half of the 250 access measures tracked in the report.

The report also shows that the quality of care is improving, particularly for hospital care and for measures being reported by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. From January to June 2014, a greater percentage of people reported having a usual place to go for medical care, with gains seen among whites, blacks and Hispanics compared with that of 2013. Additionally, the report noted big improvements in patient safety with a 17 percent reduction in the rate of hospital-acquired conditions between 2010 and 2013.