Group health insurers are hoping they can make employers and workers better health care buyers by offering detailed, comprehensive quality information as well as detailed price information.
So far, evidence that existing quality reporting programs are affecting purchasing decisions is sparse.
A study published earlier this year in Inquiry, a health finance journal, found Medicare beneficiaries seem to be ignoring quality report cards when picking Medicare health maintenance organizations.
Preliminary study results released in 2000 by Dennis Scanlon, a researcher at Pennsylvania State University, and Michael Chernew, a researcher at the University of Michigan, found vague signs employees at General Motors Corp. might be avoiding GM health plans with negative ratings in many areas. The researchers found few signs the employees were choosing plans with good ratings.
But a program at PacifiCare Health Systems Inc., Cypress, Calif., that reports on the performance of group medical practices is having a noticeable effect on PacifiCare member behavior, says Dr. Sam Ho, the companys chief medical officer.
Since PacifiCare began publishing group practice performance data for California, Oregon and Washington in 1998, “consumers have, in fact, responded enthusiastically,” Ho says.
The performance reporting seems to have caused 3% to 5% of PacifiCare members to move to better performing practices, Ho says.