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Survey: HMO Members Happy, But Some Doctors Doubtful

May 18, 1985

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Despite skepticism from private physicians, prepaid health maintenance organizations increasingly are providing satisfactory care, a survey of patients shows.

Ninety percent of HMO members said they were ″very satisfied″ or ″somewhat satisfied″ with the quality of their doctors, while 76 percent were satisfied with the quality of hospital care, according to the poll by Louis Harris and Associates.

The figures, which were released Friday, were slightly higher than responses to the same question four years ago. By comparison, of the non- members polled, 85 percent said they were satisfied with the quality of their doctors and 75 percent satisfied with quality of hospital care.

But 65 percent of physicians surveyed said they believed cost-containment policies of health maintenance organizations may lower the quality of care to unacceptable levels.

HMOs are a type of health care program in which people pay a set fee in advance for all their health care. They now have more than 15 million members.

Because HMOs make more money if their members stay healthy, they stress preventive medicine, while traditional medicine focuses on curing the sick.

Doctors have contended that same profit motive may mean sick people in HMOs may not receive as much care as they would from a regular doctor.

The Harris poll found that only 6 percent of doctors believed HMOs provide better care than traditional medicine. At the same time, however, 50 percent of physicians said their overall attitude toward HMOs was ″very favorable″ or ″somewhat favorable,″ compared to 36 percent in 1981.

The poll was commissioned by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. The Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, which Kaiser began in 1938, now serves more than 4.6 million people.

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