Medicare Patients Rate Nonprofit Health Plans Higher Than For-Profit Plans

A new Harvard Medical School study finds that, when it comes to their health plan, Medicare patients rate for-profit and nationally affiliated managed health-care plans much lower than not-for-profit or local plans.

According to the study, which appears in the March/April issue of Health Affairs, patients in for-profit and nationally affiliated health plans report more problems in their dealings with plan administrators and in their ability to obtain needed services and equipment. There were few differences in patient ratings of their physician, however, suggesting that patients were able to distinquish between the care they receive from their physician and the services they receive from their plan.

"On the whole, for-profit health plans were rated significantly worse, though some individual for-profit health plans still performed well," said lead author and HMS instructor Bruce Landon, M.D. "These types of assessments...could become increasingly important for contracting and enrollment decisions, counterbalancing the focus on costs that traditionally has driven most enrollment and purchasing decisions."

In general, patients' perception of their plan was unaffected by the size or type of the plan. Geographic region did factor into the results, however, with average scores highest for plans in the Northeast and North Mid-Atlantic regions and lowest in the Pacific region.

"Study Finds that Medicare Patients Give Higher Overall marks To Nonprofit than For-Profit Health Plans" Harvard Medical School Press 03/11/2001.