New York State
Insurance Department


ISSUED 9/23/2005

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

GOVERNOR ANNOUNCES 2005 GUIDES TO HEALTH INSURERS IS AVAILABLE
Consumer Guide Publications Help New Yorkers Make Informed Health Care Decisions

Governor George E. Pataki today announced the release of the 2005 New York Consumer Guide to Health Insurers, which allows New Yorkers to compare commercial and non-profit health insurers as well as health maintenance organizations (HMOs) based on a wide range of factors, from services offered to overall consumer satisfaction. Published annually as a joint effort of the New York State Insurance and Health Departments, the 2005 New York Consumer Guide to Health Insurers is available online and in hard copy form.

"Whether New Yorkers obtain their health insurance coverage through group plans or on their own, these guides are invaluable tools that help families make educated choices about their health insurance coverage," Governor Pataki stated. "We have worked hard to expand coverage and make health insurance more available to New York's families and these publications provide families with another tool they can use to get as much information as possible before making these choices. In addition, the online Interactive Guide allows consumers to immediately obtain information about competing insurers and HMOs."

The Governor also announced that the 2005 New York Consumer Guide to HMOs has been issued. The publication is especially helpful to New Yorkers seeking health insurance separate and apart from an employer. New York’s HMOs, unlike commercial and non-profit health insurers, are required under state law to offer coverage to any New Yorker under the age of 65 regardless of sex, occupation or health status, subject to a waiting period for pre-existing conditions.

A special interactive version of the HMO Guide is also available through the Insurance Department’s Web site at http://www.ins.state.ny.us. It gives New Yorkers a detailed summary of the characteristics, complaint records and services provided by HMOs operating in the counties where they live and work. The Interactive Guide can be accessed directly online through www.nyshmoguide.org.

Both guides also provide descriptions of health insurance products available, such as the Healthy NY program, information on how to choose a health plan, and easy-to-read tables with comparisons of health insurers that offer plans in New York State. Healthy NY is a state-sponsored health insurance program which helps ensure affordable health insurance benefits are accessible to New York State's small business owners, sole proprietors, and the working uninsured. More information on Healthy NY can be found online at http://www.healthyny.com.

The guides also provide information about Child Health Plus, New York State’s health insurance plan for children under age 19, as well as Family Health Plus, aimed at families who have no health insurance but whose incomes make them ineligible for Medicaid or other public assistance programs. New Yorkers looking to enroll in Child Health Plus or Family Health Plus must meet certain income guidelines in order to qualify.

Superintendent of Insurance Howard Mills said, "New Yorkers need to evaluate their health insurers and HMOs with a critical eye, but that’s not always easy. The seventh annual New York Consumer Guide to Health Insurers helps consumers compare the benefits and service records of all major New York health insurers and HMOs. If you're looking for health care coverage or seeking to change carriers, this guide is ideally suited for you."

State Health Commissioner Antonia C. Novello, M.D., M.P.H., Dr. P.H. said, "Our priority is to ensure that New Yorkers have access to vital information on health insurers that will help them make better informed choices on the health care plan that is best for them, including the benefits each plan offers, as well as important quality performance ratings. The 2005 consumer guides build on Governor Pataki's commitment to making sure New Yorkers have access to the best health care in the nation."

One of the guide's most accessed online features is the annual complaint ranking of health insurers and HMOs. The complaint ratio -- the number of upheld complaints by the New York Insurance Department divided by a health insurer’s or HMO’s total annual premiums --allows for a direct comparison of complaint records. An HMO complaint ranking for the past three years is also available through the HMO Interactive Guide. The three-year history gives consumers the ability to evaluate the year-to-year consistency of an HMO’s complaint record.

The online version of the 2005 New York Consumer Guide to HealthInsurers is available at the Insurance Department's Web site and hard copies of that guide, as well as the 2005 New York Consumer Guide to HMOs, can be obtained by calling 1-800-342-3736. The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) provided editorial and research support for both guides and the interactive guide. NCQA is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to improving health care quality and also accredits managed care plans nationwide.


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