A New York official has hammered out what he hopes will be a model for health insurers that want to publish physician quality guides.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo says he has negotiated the model agreement with the health care unit of CIGNA Corp., Philadelphia.

Cuomo has sent letters to a number of national and New York state health insurers in recent months asking them to put off implementing quality guide programs or to answer questions about existing programs.

The insurers and many health care policy analysts say consumers need more physician quality information to do a better job of shopping for health care, but Cuomo and others have argued that poorly run, poorly explained guide programs might mislead patients by relying mainly on cost information, rather than quality information.

CIGNA has agreed to:

- Base physician rankings on quality information as well as cost and to identify how much cost contributes to the rankings.

- Employ several quality measures.

- Tell consumers how to register complaints.

- Tell doctors how to question what they believe to be unfair rankings.

- Pay an independent “ratings examiner” to oversee compliance and report to the attorney general’s office every 6 months.

CIGNA also has agreed to contribute up to $100,000 to an independent organization to come up with better methods of explaining the program to consumers, the company says.