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Most employers don't consider reports on HMO quality when choosing employee health plans, a new study shows.

The study by The Commonwealth Fund also found that only 1% of employers provide data on health plan quality to their employees.

"As major buyers, employers have a great deal of influence in the health care marketplace and are in a position to demand higher standards of plans," observed Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund. The Commonwealth Fund is a New York-based private foundation supporting independent research of health care and social policy.

"Unfortunately, they don't seem to be taking full advantage of their bargaining power when it comes to health care," Ms. Davis said.

Accreditation by the National Committee for Quality Assurance and reports from the Health Plan Employer Data and Information Set may be playing a growing role in employers' health plan purchasing decisions as more employers become familiar with the measures, the study suggested.

The percentage of employers familiar with NCQA accreditation has increased to 35% in 1997 from 29% in 1996, the study found.

Still, only 11% of employers that offer HMOs to their employees said the NCQA's accreditation quality measurements -- the leading standards by which HMO quality is ascertained -- were important to them in deciding which health plans to offer.

An even smaller proportion -- 5% -- said HEDIS performance measures were important in selecting plans.

The study, "When Employers Choose Health Plans: Do NCQA Accreditation and HEDIS Data Count?" was based on 1997 and 1996 surveys by KPMG Peat Marwick L.L.P. of 2,653 companies with 200 or more employees.

Free copies of the study are available by calling 202-606-3840 or by visiting The Commonwealth Fund's World Wide Web site at