Matter of Trust: HMOs Get Little

HMO officials may control the purse strings, but they should never forget the Beatles’ advice: Money can’t buy you love. Only car salesmen are considered less ethical and honest than HMO managers in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll that asks the public to rate 23 different professions.

Lawyers, stockbrokers, House members, senators, advertisers, and — yes — even journalists rank higher in the poll, which was conducted Nov. 14-16.

Gallup tests the same core professions each year. The poll’s focus changes depending on what added professions are studied. This year, for instance, medical professions are included. Last year’s focus was on business; next year’s will be on government.

Other members of the health care system do much better. In fact, nurses rank higher than any other profession, with 83 percent of respondents saying the honesty and ethical standards of nurses are “very high” or “high.” That has been the case in 4 out of the 5 times that nurses have been in the poll, the sole exception occurring in 2001 when firefighters, in their lone appearance after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, scored higher.

Physicians are tied for second place with veterinarians, both at 68 percent. A strong majority of Americans also has positive opinions of dentists, college teachers, the police, engineers, and the clergy.

The CNN/USA Today/Gallup findings perhaps shed some light on the results of another survey that says that employees do not trust information that they get from online sites sponsored by health plans.

Mercer Human Resource Consulting surveyed about 14,000 employees to find out just how ready workers are to become more actively involved in the selection and management of their health care benefits.

“A big opportunity seems to lie in helping employees sort through the best health care Web resources,” says Mike McAllister, one of the survey’s authors. Unfortunately, he adds, “We now know that health plans and employers are not viewed as credible sources for health care information.”

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