New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo told UnitedHealthcare to expect a lawsuit if they publish a ranking of doctors based on the cost of care to the insurer. UnitedHealthcare caused a furor in Missouri after introducing a similar ranking scheme in 2005.
Missouri doctors cited numerous objections to the pilot program, which was halted and is being redesigned. For example, most faculty members of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis were initially excluded from the quality rankings because university-based care is generally more expensive. Doctors in major specialties were ranked by cost alone.
Tyler Mason, a spokesman for UnitedHealthcare, said the company had been meeting with the attorney general’s staff. He said: “We share their commitment to looking at cost and quality. That’s exactly what this is about. The assertion in the letter that sometimes higher cost equals higher quality is actually not what experts nationwide find. Sometimes lower cost means higher quality.”
Great answer, Tyler! Yes, lower cost means higher [shareholder] quality. The attorney general’s staff is rightly concerned that, “consumers may be encouraged to choose doctors because they are cheap rather than because they are good.” Consumers should be encouraged to abandon UnitedHealthcare for its over-zealous pursuit of profit. If only there were decent alternatives…