Nebraska Health Information Project Reports Released; Provide Resource to Evaluate Health-Care Delivery in Nebraska

Two new resources about the characteristics of the Nebraska health-care delivery environment have recently been released and provide detailed statistics on availability, cost and quality of health care in Nebraska. Ambulatory Care Sensitive Conditions, Nebraska 1994-1995 and The Nebraska Health Information Project: 1996 Databook are statistical reports tailored to policy makers, administrators, advocates, educators and researchers.

The two new resources were published by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services in partnership with the Nebraska Center for Rural Health Research at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

The first of the two new sources, The Nebraska Health Information Project: 1996 Databook, is a 140-page report organized into six chapters about Nebraskans and health care delivery in Nebraska. The six chapters cover Nebraska demographics, the distribution of health professionals, health facility characteristics, health expenditures, insurance coverage and health status, and hospital discharges.

“Medicare and Medicaid account for more than 54 percent of all hospital discharges in Nebraska,” said Keith Mueller, Ph.D., director of the Nebraska Center for Rural Health Research.

“This shows a strong dependency of our hospitals on payment from public programs that are subject to reductions in spending. This is particularly true of Medicare, placing our institutions at considerable financial risk as Congress looks to sharply limit payment to hospitals.

“The percentage of Nebraskans with private health insurance, while higher than the national average, is nevertheless declining, going from more than 82 percent in 1990 to just under 79 percent in 1995, despite a strong economy. This is occurring at the same time that we are adopting well- intentioned policies to move people away from depending on public programs such as Medicaid. There may be limited opportunities for them to purchase health insurance in the open market.”

Dr. Mueller is a professor of political science and is the author of several articles and books on health policy in the United States, rural health, and access to health care among the uninsured. He has provided expert testimony about these topics to committees and staff of the U.S. Congress.

Characteristics about hospital discharges in Nebraska are made available, for the first time, to the public in the 1996 Databook. This information presents statewide and regional data about common reasons for hospitalization. Some of these data include, by diagnosis category, total number of discharges, length of hospital stay, and average charge. The most common reasons for hospitalizations in Nebraska are related to care for a normal newborn, childbirth, psychoses, major joint and limb replacement procedures, and heart failure and shock.

The goal of the annual databook is to help policy makers and others evaluate the current state of Nebraska’s health-care delivery system and to assess how policy changes, over time, impact the health of Nebraskans. This will eventually help to identify priorities for investing state dollars for improving health care delivery in the state, Dr. Mueller said.

The second of the reports, Ambulatory Care Sensitive Conditions, Nebraska 1994-1995, presents the discharge characteristics about hospitalizations identified as potentially preventable. One of the more significant findings of the report was that more than 14 percent of Nebraska hospitalizations were identified as potentially preventable, and nearly two-thirds of these were among patients aged 65 and older.

Statewide, the most frequently occurring potentially preventable hospitalization was for a primary diagnosis of bacterial pneumonia, followed by congestive heart failure, cellulitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma.

The Nebraska Health Information Project began in January 1994 when the State of Nebraska contracted with the then Nebraska Department of Health and the University of Nebraska Board of Regents to develop an annual state health information report. The goal of the project was to use this report to begin plans for the development of a comprehensive health data collection system and to enhance data and research initiatives.

For those interested in obtaining copies of the information, call UNMC at (402) 559-5260. There is a charge for the information. The Nebraska Library Commission is providing copies of the executive summaries for free via the Internet at: