Consumer Reports ranks health insurance plans - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Consumer Reports ranks health insurance plans

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Open enrollment will be here before you know it.  Finding a good health insurance plan is one of the most important decisions you can make.  So if you have choices and options about which health care provider you will use, a new list may help you.  Consumer Reports' just-released analysis of almost 1,000 health care plans.  The 984 plans are categorized based on criteria like quality of care and customer satisfaction.

"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.

Insurers are now required to use a new form that describes in plain English deductibles, co-pays, and other costs.  The quality of care has improved.  However, 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."

The number one ranked private plan was the non-profit Harvard Pilgrim Health Care's HMO.  Also 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 major private insurers, Kaiser ranked the best and it also did the best in the Medicare category.

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.

The rankings come from a non-profit called the National Committee for Quality Assurance.  According to them, HMOs, PPOs and private plans all showed improvement in 2012.   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.  Open enrollment for private plans is coming up in October and November and for Medicare recipients, you have from October 15th until December 7th.

 

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