The move to provide the public with reports on the performance of healthcare plans is long overdue. But such reports are useless if they aren't based on uniform standards and reporting procedures that help assure that comparable items are being matched.
That's why it's troubling to see United HealthCare Corp. going its own way while other HMOs cooperate to set national standards to measure quality in the HMO industry.
Minnetonka, Minn.-based United is a major player in managed care. It owns or manages health plans in 20 cities and covers 23 million beneficiaries through more than 10,000 employers, insurers and government agencies. Last week, United announced plans to get even bigger by acquiring Ramsay-HMO, which owns and operates a 172,000-member HMO serving South Florida communities.
United's stated reason for not participating in the National Committee for Quality Assurance's effort to establish uniform standards of measurement is that it would be an unnecessary and costly duplication of its own efforts. Hogwash.
Report cards being released by individual healthcare organizations, local coalitions and states provide no true national comparisons, leaving the public with little more than promotions for individual healthcare organizations.
Amid concerns about cost-cutting, health plans face a monumental effort in convincing a skeptical public that managed care represents a major improvement compared with the way healthcare now is delivered.
With demands for even more revolutionary change in the wind, cooperative efforts to help the public evaluate quality among all types of healthcare organizations are more important than ever.