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Health Plans Rated by Consumer Reports

Magazine's Readers Weigh In on Their HMOs, PPOs

WebMD Health News

Aug. 8, 2005 -- Readers of Consumer Reports have rated their health insurance plans for the magazine.

Here are the scores of the five HMOs (health maintenance organizations) ranked highest by readers for overall satisfaction:

  • Kaiser Permanente, Northwest (Ore., Wash.): 84
  • Capital District Physicians' Health Plan (N.Y.): 83
  • Independent Health (Western N.Y.): 83
  • Blue Choice (Excellus BCBS, Rochester, N.Y. area): 82
  • Group Health Cooperative (Id., Wash.): 81

Here are the scores of the five PPOs (preferred provider organizations) ranked highest by readers for overall satisfaction:

  • Independence Blue Cross Philadelphia: 83
  • Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield (Conn.): 83
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield (Ala.): 81
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield (Mass.): 81
  • Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield (N.Y.): 81

Differences From General Public

About 35,000 Consumer Reports readers participated in the survey.

The magazine's readers are "more affluent, more educated, and they're probably more consumer savvy" than the general public, says Donato Vaccaro, PhD, research program leader for Consumer Reports.

"This was a scientific survey, but we're not trying to be nationally representative. This is representative of Consumer Reports subscribers, and their information can help anyone make a decision about products or services," Vaccaro tells WebMD.

The magazine's ranking of health plans was based only on overall reader satisfaction. The 22-question survey covered access to doctors and medical care, choice of doctors, quality of customer support, frequency of billing problems, care doctors provided, and satisfaction with primary care doctors.

Many Expressed Satisfaction With Their Health Plan

The survey showed that 64% of Consumer Reports readers were "completely" or "very" satisfied with their health plans.

Still, 17% of participants who were in HMOs expressed difficulty in seeing doctors, and nearly a third of those in PPOs said they had had billing problems, says Vaccaro.

"In general, when you survey people about something, about two-thirds will say they're highly satisfied -- completely or very satisfied," says Vaccaro. "It's a rule of thumb in the social science world. So this is average -- 64% is not much different than 66%, right? But it's health care. So maybe you expect it to be higher. It's a matter of opinion," says Vaccaro.

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