The San Diego Union-Tribune (California)
The Office of the Patient Advocate’s web site offers a report card on the state’s HMOs and medical groups, rated from poor to excellent. Readers can study a plan separately or look for comparisons of plans. Included are ratings of how HMOs provide services to hearing-impaired or non-English speaking enrollees. The second site, run by a nonprofit group involved with the survey, has fewer search options but is easier to navigate. www.opa.ca.gov/report%5Fcard and www.healthscope.org
The California Patient’s Guide summarizes health-care rights and remedies available to all residents of the state. The guide was prepared by the nonprofit Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights, with help from the California departments of Consumer Affairs and Managed Health Care. www.calpatientguide.org.
For general information or to find out how to file a complaint, visit the California Department of Insurance. It’s Consumer Hotline is (800) 927-HELP (4357). www.insurance.ca.gov/0100-consumers/hcpmain.cfm
California’s Department of Managed Health Care is another state site with consumer information. Its HMO Help Center can be reached at (888) HMO-2219. www.dmhc.ca.gov/dmhc_consumer/default.asp.
WebMD, AOL and the Department of Health and Human Services produced this easy-to-follow outline that helps insurance buyers figure out their priorities and the most pertinent questions to ask. http://aolsvc.health.webmd.aol.com/content/article/8/1680_51357.htm.
Consumer Reports published a comprehensive survey on health insurance in September 2005. A lot of helpful information is available to nonsubscribers. At the site, find the search box and type “weighing your health plan choices.” Or, read the issue of the magazine at your local library. www.consumerreports.org.
The AARP has clear explanations and overviews of managed care and what people can expect from it. On another page is advice for anyone who may be losing group health insurance. Â www.aarp.org/health/insurance/managed_care/.
As of this writing, U.S. tax-free Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are taxable in California, but if you’re interested in exploring them as a possibility, the Treasury Department gives a good rundown. The second site is offered by insurance companies to provide custom-made, value-added health insurance quotes for individuals and families. www.treasury.gov/offices/public-affairs/hsa/ and www.hsafinder.com.
Those who work for the U.S. government will find the Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees an excellent resource. www.checkbook.org/newhig2/hig.cfm.
U.S. News & World Report published its “best health plans 2005” issue in October, ranking commercial plans. www.usnews.com/usnews/health/best-health-insurance/topplans.htm.
“Surviving Healthcare,” Pamela Armstrong (2006) — Especially handy for the many people who need to balance medical costs and quality on a tight budget, this helps sort out the pros and cons of various types of coverage, such as HMOs and PPOs.
“The New Health Insurance Solution: How to Get Cheaper, Better Coverage Without a Traditional Employer Plan,” Paul Zane Pilzer (2005) — Economist-entrepreneur Pilzer explores health insurance and advises readers on how to find a plan that fits their needs.
“Your Money or Your Life: Strong Medicine for America’s Health Care System,” David M. Cutler (2004) — Not a handbook or a guide, this book — by a Harvard economics professor — is an introduction to the policy debate over health care spending.
“Health Insurance Off the Grid,” Daryl Kulak –Aimed at readers who believe in holistic medicine, this e-book suggests how to avoid the hassles of HMOs and traditional health insurance without losing the best aspects of having coverage. A paperback version is available at www.healthoffthegrid.com