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Posted On: May. 11, 1997 12:00 AM CST

To the editor: Your April 21 article, "HMO Quality Incentive: Execs' Bonuses Tied to Enrollee Satisfaction," on PacifiCare of California's agreement with the California Public Employees' Retirement System to relate senior managers' compensation to enrollee satisfaction suggests an HMO where putting patients first might be more than a slogan. Oh, to know the details!

Since most HMO members have the good fortune not to face serious health problems in any one year, fairness dictates that enrollee surveys focus on members who have had to use HMO services for a problem they regard as serious.

To ask CalPERS members who have had no significant dealings with the HMO to rate satisfaction makes a mockery of the concept, as would asking fast food customers who don't eat the burgers to respond to a taste test.

HMOs relentlessly advise legislation and regulators to eschew consumers' anecdotes and rely, instead, on survey data.

Our nation's tidal wave of managed care anger demonstrates the obvious frailties of the survey designs.

A.G. Newmyer III


Epilepsy Foundation of America

Landover, Md.