NEW YORK: HMOs Fail To Provide Consumer Info, AG Says
Eighteen out of 31 HMOs surveyed by the New York Attorney General's office "failed more than half the time to provide consumers with copies of the plan's subscriber contract and member handbook when asked," the Albany Times Union reports. Providing such information is required under the Managed Care Bill of Rights, a state law that went into effect last April. According to a study released yesterday by state Attorney General Dennis Vacco (R), the state's largest managed care insurers -- including Oxford Health Plans, Aetna U.S. HealthCare, the Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York, Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield's Healthnet and Capital District Physicians Health Plan Inc. -- were among the plans that failed to comply with the law. The Times Union notes that the "requested information helps consumers pick an HMO" and "understand their health care benefits." In response to the findings, Vacco said, "I now plan to file lawsuits against those 18 companies to bring them into compliance with the law." He also said, "I am seriously concerned that many HMOs are not even obeying the most basic provisions of the Managed Care Consumer Bill of Rights." The plans "face penalties of $500 for each violation," but they "can settle by agreeing to set up a system to make sure the information is provided upon request" (Denn, 4/7).
The New York Post reports that investigators for the attorney general's office telephoned managed care companies throughout the state between January and March, "asking for member handbooks and contracts." Each company "was called 16 times, with a failing grade given to those that didn't provide the information more than half of the time." The Post reports that in some cases "company representatives refused to send the packets," and in other cases, "they said they would, but nothing arrived" (Sherman, 4/7). In response to the survey, HMO Conference spokesperson Amy Nacinovich said, "We are concerned over the findings of the study. HMOs in New York are committed to full compliance of the law" (Times Union, 4/7). According to the Post, United Health Care "was the only big HMO in the five burroughs" of New York City "that passed" the survey (4/7).