California officials plan PPO 'report card'

The California Department of Insurers is engaging in a unique project--it plans to begin issuing a "healthcare report card" on six of the state's largest PPOs. The new report cards will include quality of care information and patient satisfaction ratings.

Officials there say the program, which will begin in early 2009, is perhaps the first of its kind in the U.S. Right now, patients enrolled in California HMOs already can get quality-of-care and satisfaction ratings on HMOs, but PPOs weren't being rated. Over time, the new report cards should include clinical outcomes ratings, including patient blood pressure averages and sugar levels in diabetics. The data could conceivably help patients, not just make them feel like smart shoppers. According to one group, the National Committee for Quality Assurance, people in health plans that report quality data were more likely to receive thorough preventive care and disease management.

In theory, participation in the new program is voluntary, but it can't be good PR for health plans that refuse to take part in the ratings, particularly given the care they give is already measured from many angles. Presumably, that's why Aetna Inc., Blue Shield of California, Cigna Corp., Health Net Inc., WellPoint Inc. and UnitedHealth Group are participating.

To find out more about the report cards:
- read this Los Angeles Times article