Americans are growing increasingly dissatisfied with HMOs, but they're tuning out much of the debate about whether they should have a right to sue their plans, according to a survey of privately insured Americans released late last month.
Some 46% of respondents in the poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University said HMOs were doing a "bad job" of serving their customers, up from 27% last year. In this summer of high gasoline prices, only oil companies received a lower mark, 52%.
Meanwhile, a wide variety of industries scored much better. For example, only 4% of the respondents gave the "poor" rating to nurses, 10% to the U.S. Postal Service and 29% to lawyers.
Though the poll found general support for a patients' bill of rights, other issues, including reducing healthcare costs and providing prescription-drug coverage for seniors, ranked higher. In addition, while 80% of respondents supported a limited right-to-sue provision, an equal number admitted they did not know the fine points of the liability debate.
"After several years of congressional debate, the public still supports a patients' bill of rights, but it's not their top priority and they are not focused on the details," Robert Blendon, professor of health policy at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in a written statement.
The good news for health insurers is that although many consumers reported problems with their HMOs, 62% still gave their plans overall grades of good or excellent. And 80% of those who had contacted their plans for any reason said their experiences were positive.