Science & Tech

Study finds parents of chronically ill children avoid switching to HMOs

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Would rather pay more for direct access to specialists

The incentive to switch health plans is usually a lower cost to the patient. So if parents of chronically ill children want to retain their old health plans instead of switching to health maintenance organizations (HMOs), they have to pay a higher price. Parents who are financially burdened may feel torn between getting the best health plan financially versus the health plan they perceive to be best for their child’s health, says a Harvard researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Yet parents of children with chronic conditions are not likely to choose an HMO plan, according to a study by MGH researchers led by Timothy G.G. Ferris, a pediatrician at MGH and clinical instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. The report, in the August 2001 issue of the journal Pediatrics, suggests these parents are willing to pay higher costs for medical care in order to have direct access to specialists. Study support was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Pediatric Scientist Development Program.