New York Attorney General Dennis Vacco last week blasted HMOs in the state for failing to provide required information about their services to consumers.
Staffers in the attorney general's office surveyed 31 HMOs and found that 18 of them were not complying with provisions of a state law, effective last April, that established a "bill of rights" for managed-care enrollees.
Those HMOs, Vacco said, failed to provide required information more than half the time they were called. HMOs are required to give a copy of the subscriber insurance contract and member handbook to any consumer who asks for information.
Only five plans did well at the basic tasks, the attorney general said, answering 14 of 16 requests as required. The remaining eight, while not failing, had less than favorable results.
In a letter, Vacco notified the 18 HMOs in violation that he intends to sue them within five days unless they agree to enter legally enforceable agreements to comply with the bill of rights.
Among the HMO*offenders were Aetna U.S. Healthcare of New York, Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York and Oxford Health Plans
Oxford, the largest HMO in the state with more than 1.2 million enrollees, declined to comment.
For its part, the Empire Blues said it is working to remedy the problems.
"We are committed to full and open communication with our members and customers," said Deborah Bohren, an Empire spokeswoman. "If the attorney general has uncovered problems with how we respond to inquiries, we want to know about them."
Bohren said Empire already is reviewing its procedures and its executives planned to meet with the attorney general's office late last week to discuss the matter.