Consumer Reports: Health Insurance Plans

September 24, 2012 5:51:02 AM PDT
Finding a good health insurance plan is one of the most important decisions you can make. And it has just gotten a lot easier.

Insurers are now required to use a new form that describes in plain English deductibles, co-pays, and other costs. Consumer Reports' just-released analysis of almost 1,000 health care plans can also help you make better choices.

When Kate Evans was freelancing, she says trying to sort through health insurance choices was a nightmare.

"The options weren't really straightforward, and it was very confusing as to what you really got. Pages of information that just didn't make sense," said Evans.

Consumer Reports analyzed 984 private, Medicare, and Medicaid health insurance plans ranked by the National Committee for Quality Assurance, or NCQA, a nonprofit accreditation organization.

"The rankings take a number of factors into consideration, including customer satisfaction and how good a job the plan does on treatment and prevention," said Consumer Reports' Nancy Metcalf.

On the plus side, the quality of care has improved. But Consumer Reports says there are troubling trends, as well.

"There are treatments and tests that have been shown not to be helpful, yet research shows many are still being overused. That's not only a waste of money, but you could end up getting treatments that are unnecessary, and sometimes even dangerous," Metcalf said.

Turns out the providers of the top 10 private plans are all nonprofits.

"That means they don't have to worry about turning a profit for investors, they only about pleasing their customers."

In the rankings, big name for-profit companies UnitedHealthcare, Aetna, and Humana had more private plans at the bottom than at the top.

When it comes to shopping for insurance, a new form will make the process much easier.

"For the first time, every plan will have a form that looks exactly the same, which will make it much easier to compare them side by side," said Metcalf.

So, people will have a much easier time comparing different policies.

Additional information on choosing health insurance and how the new Affordable Care Act will effect you is available at: www.consumerreports.org/health/insurance/health-insurance.htm.

A note about the rankings Consumer Reports used in its analysis: insurance company plans that are accredited by the NCQA are allotted a certain number of points. Not all insurance plans are accredited, and some are accredited by another organization. There is a fee involved for any accreditation. Consumer Reports says getting accredited is an important step because it shows insurers are willing to report on their plans performance and that has led to improved performance.

All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2008. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not for profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit consumerreports.org.


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