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Heard on the Beat / HEALTH CARE

HMOs Fall Short of 'Respectable' Ratings

August 23, 1996|Barbara Marsh | Barbara Marsh covers health care for The Times. She can be reached at (714) 966-7762 and at barbara.marsh@latimes.com

A recent survey shows that PacifiCare and FHP received above-average ratings for satisfying their members, but fell short of "respectable" levels.

In a survey this year, the California Public Employees' Retirement System queried employees on their satisfaction with 21 various health plans. Eighty percent of the respondents indicated satisfaction--a level deemed "respectable" by CalPERs, which administers health benefits for 990,000 public employees, retirees and their dependents. However, FHP received an approval rating of 77%, and PacifiCare scored 75%. A 73% rating is considered average for the industry.

PacifiCare was marked down particularly by chronically ill patients--34% of whom expressed dissatisfaction. CalPERS considers a dissatisfaction level of 35% or more as an indicator of a "significant problem" in health-plan operations.

Officials for both HMOs said they appreciate such surveys for pointing out ways that they can improve. An FHP official said the company is working to improve its service and plans to begin offering some new products this fall. PacifiCare officials said the company might have rated lower than some competitors because it has been willing to provide service in rural counties where medical care is less accessible.

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