Into most American lives a managed-care plan will someday come--along with voluminous and bewildering packets of information supposedly designed to let the patients know what sort of health care they can expect. But how to choose? Some organizations, and even some popular magazines, have attempted to rank the HMOs, but their various methods of scoring are at cross-purposes--and may have little to do with the quality of care. For starters, some HMOs have simply declined to participate in these surveys or submit to the accreditation process established by the nonprofit National Committee for Quality Assurance. Moreover, a recent Massachusetts study found...

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