BALTIMORE – Consumers chose Coventry Health Care, Delmarva and Maryland Individual Practice Association as the three best health plans in Maryland, according to a report released Wednesday by the Maryland Health Care Commission.
The report also identified Kaiser Permanente as the only Maryland HMO to perform above average in all six categories of diagnostic and preventive care rated by the commission for the last three years in a row.
These are among the findings in the MHCC report that rated the 15 commercial HMOs operating in Maryland on more than 50 measures, including high blood pressure control, comprehensive diabetes care, asthma medication, anti- depressant medication management and cholesterol management.
MHCC’s report is difficult for a consumer to use, in that it provides no overall grades or rankings. However, it is often considered by employers and others evaluating HMOs.
The top HMOs were determined by a Capital News Service review of the MHCC data. Coventry, Delmarva (a BlueCross BlueShield HMO) and Maryland IPA had the highest percentage of favorable consumer ratings on overall satisfaction with their health care plan.
“I guess maybe we’re a little critical when it comes to giving out information that it means something,” said commission chairman Dr. Donald E. Wilson. “We could simply have a rank of one to 10 . . . but if there’s no difference between one and two, we’d be sort of giving a false sense that there really is a difference.”
James J. Doyle Jr., a lobbyist for Aetna U.S. Healthcare, which owns four of the HMOs in the report, said, “It’s an unusual consumer that’s willing to wade through those things.”
John M. Colmers, commission executive director, said the commission has made changes in the layout and wording based on a survey last year of every state employee who switched health plans. “We are very sensitive to making sure that this is consumer friendly,” said Colmers.
But in a press conference Wednesday, Colmers said that the report is also intended for HMOs and employers.
“I get that report, I read it and I am aware of what they said,” said Doyle. “It has little or no impact on the instructions I give to Aetna.”
Colmers said he hopes employers will use the report as a guide when they choose a health plan for their employees, or that employers who offer open enrollment will distribute the guide to help aid their employees in choosing the right plan.
“Most consumers never see them,” said Pearl L. Lewis, vice president of the Maryland Patient Advocacy Group. “Even if the information is there, the consumer doesn’t have a choice.”
Although the government and many large businesses give employees a choice of health plans, Lewis said many consumers aren’t able to choose their HMO.
“As an employee of a company that doesn’t offer any of the star performers as a choice, then you as an employee have the ability to bring suggestions to the employer,” said Wilson.
The MHCC report evaluated the following HMOs: Coventry, Delmarva, Maryland IPA, Kaiser, Aetna U.S. Healthcare in Maryland, Aetna U.S. Healthcare in Virginia, Aetna U.S. Healthcare Inc. (formerly NYLCare), CapitalCare (BlueCross BlueShield), Cigna Healthcare Mid-Atlantic Inc., Free State (BlueCross BlueShield), George Washington University, Optimum Choice Inc., Preferred Health Network of Maryland, Prudential HealthCare, United Healthcare of the Mid- Atlantic.
The National Committee for Quality Assurance released a similar report earlier this month that ranked managed care organizations, including HMOs in Maryland, on a scale of zero to four stars.
The Maryland Health Care Commission report is available at public libraries, online at http://www.mhcc.state.md.us/hmo/_hmo.htm or by calling toll free 1-877-245-1762.