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POLL SAYS AMERICANS IN DARK ABOUT HEALTH-CARE OPTIONS

SHARE POLL SAYS AMERICANS IN DARK ABOUT HEALTH-CARE OPTIONS

A private research group says Americans need to be better educated on health-care options available to them.

A survey conducted for the group by Louis Harris and Associates last year found that 55 percent of the respondents had never heard of "managed care" plans and did not know what the term meant. And a third of those surveyed were unfamiliar with health maintenance organizations, or HMOs."The health-care community has failed to deliver the information consumers need to make sound choices," said Stephen Isaacs, an author of the study and president of the Center for Health and Social Policy in Pelham, N.Y., which conducts health policy research.

"Employers, providers, health plans and governments must find better ways to provide information and to make it understandable to ordinary people," he said Monday.

More than half of all Americans who have health-care coverage are in managed-care plans - a broad category of plans that coordinate patient services and monitor care in an effort to control costs.

These plans generally arrange with selected physicians to provide health-care services to plan members, with financial incentives for patients to used those providers.

HMOs are a form of managed care that provide comprehensive services for a fixed prepayment.

Isaacs' study was published in the current issue of Health Affairs, an industry magazine, which also included a study comparing HMOs with traditional health-care plans in terms of patient access and satisfaction.

That survey found that those who use HMOs complain of more unmet medical needs, even though they see their doctors more - and spend less time in waiting rooms - than those who visit doctors under other circumstances.