- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 6, 2005

Managed care customers in Maryland were moderately satisfied or dissatisfied with their health plans this year, according to a new report by the Maryland Health Care Commission.

The state regulator of health plans yesterday released its annual consumer guide for the seven large health maintenance organization (HMO) and point-of-service (POS) insurance plans. These plans totaled 2.29 million policyholders in the state.

The report did not examine customer satisfaction for other health plans, such as health savings accounts and preferred provider organization plans.

“Good health care depends on good information. Our report cards help consumers make better choices of health plans,” said Commission Executive Director Dr. Rex Cowdry.

The report, which rated plans as above average, average and below average in their quality of care, surveyed 1,100 members from each of the HMO and POS plans offered in the state.

Consumers were asked about their satisfaction with the plan and other factors, like access to care, disease screenings, preventive care counseling and child immunizations.

The report found that HMO and POS plans from national health insurers Aetna Inc. and Cigna Corp. fell from an average rate in 2004 to worse than average this year.

Plans from Coventry Health Care Inc., Kaiser Permanente, which reported customer feedback only for its HMO plan, and Mid Atlantic Medical Services LLC held steady this year with an average rate.

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield’s plans jumped from an average rate in 2004 to a better-than-average one this year.

Schools get fitness

The Sport & Health Co. this week said it will be setting up outdoor fitness equipment at about 60 local public schools as part of a $1 million childhood obesity campaign.

The Vienna, Va., health club company, with 26 locations in the Washington area, teamed up with Project Fit America, a San Francisco nonprofit, to raise the funds for the estimated six-year initiative.

“We wanted to do something that made an impact in an area that meant something to us. Those in our industry have been aware of [childhood obesity] for some time,” said Sport & Health President Mitch Wald.

The first four schools, which will each receive about $15,000 in new equipment, are Spotswood Elementary School in Fredericksburg, Va., Enterprise Elementary School in Woodbridge, Va., Francis C. Hammond Middle School in Alexandria and Tuckahoe Elementary School in Arlington.

Sport & Health plans to expand the program to public schools in the District and Maryland, Mr. Wald said.

Uninsured businesses

More than half of the nation’s 18 million “micro-businesses,” with 10 employees or less, were uninsured this year, according to a recent report.

The study, which was done by the National Association for the Self-Employed, said 51 percent of the 618 small companies surveyed stopped offering employee health coverage. Most of those companies cited high insurance costs as the reason.

The survey, a first of its kind by the Washington trade group, also found that 62 percent of businesses with health insurance used a network health plan like a PPO instead of a managed care option like an HMO plan.

Health Care runs Fridays. Call Marguerite Higgins at 202/636-4892 or e-mail mhiggins@washingtontimes.com.

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