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Doctor rankings help health care cost control


The New York Attorney General's Office has become famous for promoting transparency for consumers, but its recent efforts to stop a health insurer publishing a ranking of doctors is a step backward.

As we report on page 1, New York's attorney general wrote to a unit of UnitedHealth Group Inc. in New York urging it not to use the rankings, citing concerns over "faulty data and criteria" motivated by profit. It's a classic question of whether businesses can be trusted to protect the consumer's interest.

Insurers and benefit plan sponsors nationwide have embraced consumerism as a way to control health care costs and promote performance-based medicine, but that approach only works when consumers can make informed decisions.

We agree that accurate measures are vital, and in an ideal world, there would be uniform metrics on all health care providers in every state. But the fact remains, there is no such uniformity, and UnitedHealth was attempting to introduce a metric in a major health care market where none existed.

Not surprisingly, employer and physician groups are taking sides. Rather than bickering over such approaches in the face of continually rising costs, and inviting the intervention of regulatory authorities, we think physicians and health care payers ought to collaborate on comprehensive quality measurements, for the good of all.