Consumer Reports Examines Service at Drugstores, Health Plans
The October issue of Consumer Reports examines independent and chain drugstores, and it also compares HMOs and preferred provider plans. Summaries of the two articles appear below.
- "Time To Switch Drugstores?": The nation's 25,000 independent pharmacies provide more caring, courteous, knowledgeable and timely service than their supermarket and mass-merchant counterparts, and the prices are slightly lower than at national chains, according to a survey of 32,000 Consumer Reports readers who described 40,000 experiences at 31 pharmacies nationwide. More than 85% of consumers who purchased their prescription drugs at an independent pharmacy said they were very satisfied or completely satisfied with their experience, compared with 58% people who said the same about chain drugstores. In a ranking of pharmacies, Medicine Shoppe topped the list of drugstore chains, Publix was the highest ranked supermarket pharmacy and ShopKo and Target tied for the best mass merchant pharmacy (Consumer Reports, October 2003).
- "HMO or PPO: Picking a Managed Care Plan": Consumer satisfaction with HMOs and PPOs is "merely lukewarm," with readers giving an average satisfaction score of 73 on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 equaling completely satisfied, according to a Consumer Reports survey of 12,662 readers participating in 49 HMOs and 43 PPOs. The survey also found that 22% of HMO members and 15% of PPO members said they had difficulty visiting a physician because of long waiting times for appointments, difficulty receiving approval for treatment or saw their providers leaving the network. About 32% of PPO members said they had billing problems, compared with 15% of HMO members. About 25% of both HMO and PPO members said they had difficulty receiving mental health care and said they could not get an in-network doctor, had limited numbers of visits and received treatment that was too focused on medication. In a ranking of HMOs and PPOs, Kaiser Permanente was cited as the top HMO and Blue Cross Blue Shield was called the best PPO (Consumer Reports, October 2003).