Help with making health-care choices.
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Read Making a Killing

home / healthcare / in the media

The Orange County Register
Oct 13, 2002

by Bernard J. Wolfson

Help with making health-care choices.

There's no reason for making uninformed decisions, given the number of public and private resources.
Whether you're deciding among health plans, hospitals or doctors, there's no dearth of information to help you navigate your way -- and to educate yourself on the ABCs of our health-care system while you're at it. Here are some useful resources:

The Office of the Patient Advocate, a state agency, recently published ''report cards'' on all of California's HMOs and 81 of its doctor groups. The cards are available in Spanish, English and Chinese. The office also publishes a booklet that helps you understand how HMOs work. Get the report cards and HMO guide online at , or by calling (866) HMO-8900.

The Department of Managed Health Care, the agency that regulates California's HMOs, has a telephone help line that can offer you quick mediation if you're having a dispute with your health plan. The department can also provide you with the report cards mentioned above and plenty of other information. Call (888) HMO-2219 or log on to the Web site

Pacific Business Group on Health. This large purchasing consortium maintains a Web site with a wealth of healthcare help, including report cards on HMOs, PPOs, doctors groups and hospitals; advice on how to choose your medical coverage; and information on prevention, Medicare and senior health issues. Log onto the site at , or call (415) 281-8660.

Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports magazine, provides information on a wide range of health-care topics, including Medicare and Medicaid, dispute resolution, children's health, prescription drugs and the latest legislation that could affect your benefits. The group also publishes a consumer tip sheet, ''Choosing a Health Plan,'' which lists the things you should keep in mind when making your coverage decisions. You can get all of this online at , and some of it in hard copy by calling (415) 431-6747.

Citizens for the Right to Know, a consumer advocacy group, has a Web site with a wealth of information, including the approved-drug lists of every health plan in the state, which you can search by disease, by drug category or by individual drug. The site also has a place where you can report any trouble you're having with your HMO or doctor, and the information is sent to the Office of the Patient Advocate. It also has a variety of useful publications, including ''California's Emerging Health Care Advocate: You!'' a guide to consumer rights and choices. Log on to, or call (916) 443-7239.

The National Committee for Quality Assurance, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C., issues its own report cards on health plans. You can customize a report card to compare the health plans among which you are choosing. Log onto , or call (888) 275-7585.

HealthGrades, a Colorado-based company, provides ratings on thousands of hospitals, physicians, nursing homes and home health agencies nationwide. You can find this information at

The California Patient's Guide, a 79-page booklet published by the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, tells you everything you could think to ask about your rights and legal remedies as a health-care consumer. You can get a copy by calling the Foundation at (310) 392-0522 or from the Department of Managed Health Care (see contact information above).
Contact Wolfson at (714) 796-6977 or

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