HHS: Launches Managed Care Consumer Survey
Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala announced Friday that her agency is launching a nationwide effort to help patients rate their health plans and to help consumers choose among plans. The effort, initially targeted at the Medicare population, is based on a new survey tool, the Consumer Assessment of Health Plans (CAHPS), which according to HHS "provides a consumers-eye view of the care and service [health plan members] receive from health providers." The survey process will be led by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research. Shalala said the Medicare program will use the CAHPS survey tool this month to conduct the first-ever survey of beneficiaries in every Medicare managed care plan. "About 130,000 Medicare managed care enrollees should start to see the CAHPS 'Medicare Satisfaction Survey' questionnaires in the mail soon," said Health Care Financing Administrator Nancy-Ann Min DeParle. In addition, the Office of Personnel Management will use CAHPS to help guide decision-making for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. "This survey lets patients share what only they know about the health plans where they're enrolled. It can help others make the right choice of health plan. And of course, it can help the providers improve their services, as well," Shalala said.
The Survey Kit
AHCPR released the completed survey kit Friday, which is intended for use by both employers and managed care plans. Developed with AHCPR funding and support, CAHPS is being developed by a consortium led by Harvard Medical School, RAND and the Research Triangle Institute. The CAHPS kit contains a set of questionnaires that ask about consumers' experiences with their health plans; sample formats for reporting results to consumers and detailed instructions to help implement the surveys and produce the reports. The questionnaires have been standardized so that assessments can be compared across health plans and patient populations over time. CAHPS also contains survey questions that address children's health care, chronic care and other special populations.
According to HHS, the CAHPS-based Medicare questionnaire is to be returned by beneficiaries by May, with results expected to be published by November. HCFA is also expected to conduct a similar survey of the Medicare fee-for-service population (HHS release, 2/20).