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Medicare Patients Will Be Among the First to Benefit
Press Release Date: February 20, 1998
HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala today launched a new
nationwide effort to help patients rate their health plans and to
help consumers choose among plans. The effort is built on a new
survey tool, the Consumer Assessment of Health Plans (CAHPS®), that
provides a consumers-eye view of the care and service they receive
from health providers.
HHS' Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, which
developed the new CAHPS® survey, today released the completed survey
kit, which can be used by managed care plans, employers and others to
obtain consumers' views of the care they are receiving.
At the same time, Secretary Shalala announced that Medicare
enrollees in managed care plans will be among the first to benefit.
Medicare will use CAHPS® this month to conduct the first-ever survey
of beneficiaries in every Medicare managed care plan to assess their
experiences with managed care.
In addition, the Office of Personnel Management will adopt
CAHPS® for use by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. OPM
will use CAHPS® to survey federal employees and report back the
findings of the survey to them to help in the selection of health
plans during federal open season.
"When you choose a health plan, you want to know how the plan
really works for its patients. You want the kind of information
you'd get from a friend or a trusted neighbor," Secretary Shalala
said. "This survey lets patients share what only they know about the
health plans where they're enrolled. It can help others make the
right choice of health plan. And of course, it can help the
providers improve their services, as well."
About 130,000 Medicare managed care enrollees should start to
see the CAHPS® "Medicare Satisfaction Survey" questionnaires in the
mail soon. Nancy-Ann Min DeParle, administrator of the Health Care
Financing Administration which administers Medicare, urged
beneficiaries to fill out the questionnaire, saying "the more
responses we get, the more we can help all our beneficiaries make
truly informed choices about managed care."
"Results of this survey will let beneficiaries make
apples-to-apples comparisons of managed care plans," DeParle said.
"It will let people find out in a clear, reliable way what other
beneficiaries know about the health care plans available to them."
The Medicare questionnaire was developed as one part of the
CAHPS® initiative in response to the unprecedented demand for consumer
feedback on health plans in an increasingly competitive health care
"CAHPS® provides scientifically based survey instruments for
gathering and reporting how consumers perceive the quality of care
they are receiving," said John M. Eisenberg, M.D., AHCPR's
administrator. "Consumers can make choices based on what other
people have said about the available plans, and they can look for
features that are especially important to them and their families."
Dr. Eisenberg emphasized that some aspects of a plan's
quality can be judged only by the consumers, such as how well the
doctor communicates with patients, how easy it is to get urgent care,
or how burdensome the paperwork is. CAHPS® will obtain this
information from consumers and compile and release the results so
that other consumers can use it to compare and choose the best health
plan for their needs.
The CAHPS® kit contains a set of questionnaires that ask about
consumers' experiences with their health plans; sample formats for
reporting results to consumers; and detailed instructions to help
implement the surveys and produce the reports. The questionnaires
have been standardized so that assessments can be compared across
health plans, across patient populations and over time. Health care
purchasers implement the survey, produce the reports and provide
results to consumers. CAHPS® also contains survey questions that
address health care of children, people with chronic conditions, or
other special populations.
With AHCPR funding and support, CAHPS® is being developed by a
consortium led by Harvard Medical School, RAND and the Research
Triangle Institute. The 5-year project is in its third year.
All of the CAHPS® products have been evaluated for their
validity and tested at a number of demonstration sites to ensure
accurate comparisons in real-world settings, including comparisons
between managed care and fee-for-service settings, as well as within
private and public insurance plans.
The CAHPS®-based Medicare questionnaire is to be returned by
beneficiaries by May. Results are expected to be made available by
November both in printed form and via the Internet.
Gathering and disseminating meaningful information about
Medicare managed care comes at a particularly important time, said
DeParle. Medicare has seen substantial growth in the number of
enrollees signing up for HMOs and other managed care plans, with more
than 6 million now enrolled in 427 plans, with growth rates of 25
percent a year for the past three years. Medicare enrollees can
choose to receive health care service through traditional
fee-for-service coverage or through managed care plans.
The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 further expands the types of
managed care options that will be available in Medicare.
After this month's initial survey of a sample of managed care
enrollees in each of the Medicare-qualified plans, HCFA will conduct
similar research with Medicare beneficiaries in traditional
fee-for-service medicine. Results of all these surveys will be
widely distributed to beneficiaries and be available in charts
comparing Medicare managed care plans on the Internet.
Note: HHS press releases are available on the World Wide Web at:
For additional information, please contact AHCPR Press Office: Karen Migdail, (301) 427-1855 (KMigdail@ahrq.gov), or HCFA Press Office (202) 690-6145.