New York State
Insurance Department


ISSUED: 9/14/2000

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LEVIN ANNOUNCES NEW EDITION OF STATE’S PREMIER
CONSUMER GUIDE TO HEALTH INSURERS

            Superintendent Neil D. Levin today announced that the State’s second annual edition of the New York Consumer Guide to Health Insurers is now available. The new, comprehensive Guide, produced in conjunction with National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) and Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, provides New York State consumers access to key facts about choosing and comparing health insurers.

            "The Guide puts vital information in the hands of New Yorkers enabling them to make sound, informed decisions when choosing health care," said Levin. "It is clear from our findings that consumers took full advantage of the information that was afforded to them in the 1999 Guide. I am pleased to offer this updated resource so individuals know how health insurers are treating their customers, how they handle complaints, grievances, and appeals and what quality of care they provide."

            The Guide allows consumers to compare plans based on the number of complaints, grievances, and utilization review appeals. It also explains how consumers can appeal adverse utilization review decisions under the State’s one-year old External Review law and gives results of the new law by all types of health insurers.

            Also included is the Department’s traditional ranking of health insurers according to the number of consumer complaints. Complaint ratios are determined by the number of upheld complaints in proportion to the plan’s size.

            The HMOs with the best complaint ratios are:

1. Preferred Care

2. Excellus (includes HMO Blue and Blue Choice)

3. Empire Healthnet

4. United HealthCare-Upstate New York

5. Community Blue (HeathNow)

            The HMOs with the worst complaint ratios are:

17. Univera Healthcare-Central New York

18. MDNY

19. Prudential

20. CIGNA

21. Univera Healthcare-Western New York

            Important information provided by the Department of Health is also included, such as certain rates of treatment, health plan enrollee primary care visit rates, and other indicators of a health plan’s quality of care. In addition, consumers are offered a comprehensive review and a comparison of the major quality-of-care indicators and other performance measures for HMOs, not-for-profit insurers and commercial insurers. Standard indicators that are measured include mammography screenings, child immunizations and prenatal care.

            "This Guide is important for consumers because it highlights real differences in performance among the plans and presents the information in a standard and easy-to-understand format," said Levin.

            It has been a top priority of Governor George E. Pataki to enact meaningful and practical health insurance reform for New Yorkers. Landmark legislation such as the Heath Care Reform Act of 2000 establishing the Healthy New York Program covering New York’s working uninsured, Point-of-Service Law of 1995, the Managed Care Reform Act of 1996, the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1997, the Child Health Plus insurance program expansion, and 1998 legislation guaranteeing consumer a right to external review of health insurance coverage decisions, are examples of major health insurance initiatives signed into law by the Governor.

            The report can be accessed on the Department’s Web site at www.ins.state.ny.us in the consumer section or by calling the consumer hotline at 1-800-342-3736.


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