NU Online News Service, March 12, 3:46 p.m. – The National Committee for Quality Assurance, Washington, has released a Web-based “Quality Dividend Calculator” that estimates the savings an employer can generate by picking a good health plan.

A manufacturer with 1,000 employees could eliminate an average of 381 sick days and low productivity days by choosing a health maintenance organization that ranks in the top 10% among participants in the NCQA quality program rather than an HMO that refuses to participate at all, according to the NCQA calculator.

Employers, managed care companies and consumer groups established NCQA a decade ago to improve managed care quality. The nonprofit group has succeeded at persuading many states to require participation in its quality programs, but it has had some trouble coming up with hard numbers to persuade employers to consider quality performance statistics when shopping for health plans.

The new NCQA calculator, prepared with help from an outside consulting firm, takes into account the cost of sick days and sick wages resulting from with asthma, diabetes and six other serious, manageable health problems. The calculator than factors in the effects of typical, excellent and poor care on worker attendance and productivity.

The calculator is on the NCQA Web site, at http://www.ncqa.org