Consumer Reports ranks health insurance plans

Open enrollment will be here before you know it. {}Finding a good health insurance plan is one of the most important decisions you can make. {}So if you have choices and options about which health care provider you will use, a new list may help you. {}Consumer Reports' just-released analysis of almost 1,000 health care plans. {}The 984 plans are categorized based on criteria like quality of care and customer satisfaction.

"The rankings take a number of factors into consideration, including customer satisfaction and how good a job the plan does on treatment and prevention," said Consumer Reports' Nancy Metcalf.Insurers are now required to use a new form that describes in plain English deductibles, co-pays, and other costs. {}The quality of care has improved. {}However, Consumer Reports says there are troubling trends, as well. {}"There are treatments and tests that have been shown not to be helpful, yet research shows many are still being overused. That's not only a waste of money, but you could end up getting treatments that are unnecessary, and sometimes even dangerous," Metcalf said. {}Turns out the providers of the top 10 private plans are all nonprofits. {}"That means they don't have to worry about turning a profit for investors, they only about pleasing their customers."The number one ranked private plan was the non-profit Harvard Pilgrim Health Care's HMO. {}Also in the rankings, big name for-profit companies UnitedHealthcare, Aetna, and Humana had more private plans at the bottom than at the top. {}When it comes to major private insurers, Kaiser ranked the best and it also did the best in the Medicare category.When it comes to shopping for insurance, a new form will make the process much easier. {}"For the first time, every plan will have a form that looks exactly the same, which will make it much easier to compare them side by side," said Metcalf.The rankings come from a non-profit called the National Committee for Quality Assurance. {}According to them, HMOs, PPOs and private plans all showed improvement in 2012. {} Additional information on choosing health insurance and how the new Affordable Care Act will effect you is available at: {}Open enrollment for private plans is coming up in October and November and for Medicare recipients, you have from October 15th until December 7th.