Consumers enrolled in managed-care plans perceive more delays and difficulty receiving access to care than those in fee-for-service plans, but enrollees in both groups are equally satisfied with the quality of care received, according to a recent study.
Consumers rated fee-for-service and Medicare health plans better than managed-care plans on many of the questions asked in a recent survey conducted by Lincoln, Neb.-based National Research Corp. NRC's 1997 Healthcare Market Guide studied more than 165,000 households, representing more than 400,000 covered lives in 100 major metropolitan areas.
According to the survey, 15.5% of respondents covered by HMOs or point-of-service plans expressed problems with delays in receiving medical care while waiting for approval from their health plans. That compares with only 5.7% of those covered by fee-for-service plans. And 11.8% of managed-care enrollees experienced difficulties receiving care their doctors felt was necessary, compared with 5.5% of individuals covered under fee-for-service plans.
"These results are not surprising," says Joe Carmichael, managing director at NRC. "Managed care indicates that there are processes in place to manage the care that individuals receive versus indemnity plans that have free (and faster) access."
Managed-care leaders have to address the perception of delay that may cause consumers to switch health plans, Carmichael says.
However, despite the problems involving access to care, fee-for-service and managed-care consumers are equally satisfied with their doctors, the survey shows. The number who were dissatisfied with the care they received or with their access to physicians were 26% of respondents enrolled in fee-for-service plans and 24% of respondents enrolled in HMO/POS plans. The highest number of dissatisfied enrollees -- 30% -- were in PPOs.
The most common reason managed-care enrollees switch doctors is because a particular doctor is not on a health plan's approved list, according to the survey, not because of concerns regarding quality of care, Carmichael says.
"The perception is that medical care received from HMOs is poor," Carmichael says. "This (survey) shows that some of the issues we've perceived to be out there are not the case."