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HMOs Beat PPOs on Cost, Customer Support and Billing Services, Survey Says

Source: Biotech Week


Posted on 18 Aug 2009

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A Consumer Reports survey of consumers who rated and made side-by-side comparisons of 35 HMOs and 41 PPOs suggests that some consumers are indeed ready for change when it comes to health care, based on their own climbing insurance premium costs.

Survey respondents reported median annual out-of-pocket costs for premiums increased by 38% in the past two years, and only 64 percent of those surveyed were "Very" or "Completely" satisfied with their current health insurance plan.

"That's a lukewarm response and a slight drop from the 67 percent in our 2007 report," said Mandy Walker, senior project editor for Consumer Reports. "In terms of services we rate, that puts satisfaction with health insurance above satisfaction with cable TV, a perennial whipping post, but below pharmacies and real-estate agents."

Eighty-four percent of the 37,481 subscribers who reported their experiences over the course of a year were in an employer-based plan, which they could keep under most health-reform proposals now before Congress.

Annual out-of-pocket costs for plan premiums were up 38 percent from two years ago for both those in HMOs and PPOs. Respondents to the survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center reported a median premium cost of $1,829, an increase of about $500 since 2006.

The survey results also indicate that choosing an HMO over a PPO seems like a smarter choice than in the past. While overall satisfaction scores were similar, respondents in HMOs paid less for premiums than people in PPOs ($1,466 compared with $2,003) and less out of pocket on their medical bills. Among PPO members who were seriously ill, 69% paid $1,000 or more on bills, while only 47% of seriously ill people in HMOs spent that much.

In the past, HMO members who were seriously ill had more trouble getting access to care, but this time there was little difference: Of HMO members who were ill, 15% had problems getting care, compared with 14% of PPO members.


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