New York Attorney General Warns Insurers on Physician Ranking
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (D) on Thursday warned health insurers Aetna and Cigna that planned physician ranking programs based on quality and cost likely would confuse or deceive consumers because of the programs' design, the Los Angeles Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 8/17).
The warning comes after Cuomo last month sent a letter to UnitedHealthcare, warning the company to cancel its plan to release physician rankings based on quality-of-care and cost data, or face legal action (California Healthline, 7/17).
In letters to Aetna and Cigna, Cuomo questioned the insurers' use of claims data to rank specialists. According to Cuomo, claims data does not contain complete information and can skew rankings.
He also criticized the insurers for failing to disclose the accuracy of the rankings and said insurers "have a profit motive" to recommend physicians who cost less but might not be the most qualified.
Cuomo asked Aetna and Cigna to provide details about the criteria they use to rank doctors, how the insurers measure a physician's performance and what incentives are used to steer patients to or away from providers (Thompson, AP/Houston Chronicle, 8/16).
Linda Lacewell, counsel for economic and social justice at the attorney general's office, in a letter to Aetna's general counsel James Brown wrote, "This program carries significant risk of causing consumer confusion, if not deception," adding, "The attorney general is committed to fostering transparency on behalf of consumers" (Bloomberg/Hartford Courant, 8/17).
Aetna spokesperson Cynthia Michener said the company would "cooperate fully," as "Aetna is fully committed to transparency." Cigna spokesperson Wendell Potter said, "We take the attorney general's concerns seriously and will respond to his request for information" (AP/Houston Chronicle, 8/16).