Minority Advocates Criticize HMOs for Declining To Provide Data on Services to Non-English Speaking Members to State Agency
Advocates for minority groups are criticizing some California HMOs for declining to submit information about services provided to non-English speaking patients to the Office of the Patient Advocate for the agency's annual report card on HMO quality of care, the Los Angeles Times reports. Blue Shield of California, Cigna Healthcare of California, Aetna and Western Health Advantage declined to file data on foreign language services because they questioned the survey's methodology, according to the Times. Twenty-four other HMOs submitted information for the survey.
Eight organizations that represent minority groups -- including the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, the Western Center for Law and Poverty and the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum -- criticized the HMOs.
Leanne Gassaway, vice president of the California Association of Health Plans, said that HMOs had requested that OPA use the same methodology it had used in last year's report, which listed services available from each HMO.
However, OPA this year compiled the information in a "simple chart, featuring upward- and downward-pointing arrows that indicate whether a plan's cultural-linguistic services are average, above average or below average," the Times reports.
Ed Mendoza, acting director of OPA, defended the survey's methodology. "We acknowledge it's not perfect, and we're continuing to refine it, but I think it's a reasonable first step," he said.
Patricia Diaz of LCHC said the HMOs were sending "the wrong message to the non-English speaking community," which she said includes one-third of all California residents and half of Los Angeles County residents.
Blue Shield spokesperson Patrice Smith said the HMO regretted withholding the information and would provide it next year (Lifsher, Los Angeles Times, 9/30).