Consumer Reports Evaulates Health Care Plans

When new provisions of health reform take effect next year, it will be much easier to compare health plans. Insurers will have to use a standard form that describes costs in plain English - costs like 
co-pays and deductibles. Until then choosing a health plan remains quite difficult. Consumer Reports just analyzed data on hundreds of plans and has advice on how to find a good one.


Jaci Herschfeld says she found shopping for health insurance a real chore.

Jaci explains, "A lot of health insurance had holes. I wasn't going to get exactly what I wanted. A lot of it was very, very expensive."

Consumer Reports analyzed 830 health-care plans ranked by an independent, nonprofit organization called the National Committee for Quality Assurance.

Nancy Metcalf with Consumer Reports says, "There's differences in how well these plans perform managing chronic conditions, like asthma or heart disease, and also how well they perform on delivering preventive care like cancer screenings or immunizations."

Like Jaci, many people have the option of choosing an HMO or a PPO.

Nancy explains, "PPOs typically cost a bit more and have higher deductibles. HMOs have low or often no deductibles. However you are usually limited to the hospitals and doctors within the HMO's network."

Another decision these days some people face is whether to opt for a plan with a high deductible, often paired with a health savings account.

Nancy says, "With these plans, there's a trade-off. The premiums are lower, but the deductibles can be as high as five-thousand dollars or even ten-thousand dollars if you're buying a plan on your own."

As for Jaci, after much research, she decided to go with an HMO.

Jaci says, "No health-care plan out there is perfect. You just got to weigh the pros and the cons and make sure that you're going with the one that fits your needs best."

And keep smaller insurers in mind. In Consumer Reports' analysis, some of the top-ranked plans were with smaller companies.

To see how your health plan stacks up against others, or to help you find a plan if you're shopping for one, check Consumer Reports to see the rankings of HMOs and PPOs from the National Committee for Quality Assurance. These ranking also include Medicare and Medicaid plans.

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