NEW YORK (CNNfn) -- After an exhaustive survey of 72,000 patients, the Center for the Study of Services in Washington has published rankings of 300 health plans across the country. Who's the best?
"The highest rated were United Health Care, Principal Health Care Plans, Healthsource Plans and the Kaiser Plans," said Robert Krughoff of the Center for Study of Services.
Results vary, however, by region. According to the survey, the best plans in the East are Capital District Physicians Health Plan in New York, Physicians Health Services and ConnectiCare in Connecticut, and Preferred Care of New York.
In the South the best ratings went to Healthwise of Kentucky, Community Health of Baton Rouge and Health Partners in Birmingham, Alabama.
In the Midwest top honors went to Physicians Health Plan of Lansing, Michigan, Care Choices of Western Michigan and Care Choices of Northwest Iowa.
The best in the West are Rocky Mountain HMO, Scott and White Health Plan of Texas, and Principal Health Care, also of Texas.
Finally along the West Coast the top ratings went to Group Health Northwest, Omni Healthcare and Kaiser and Permanente.
In a future story we will tell you which plans scored the lowest.
You should always ask your doctor a series of tough questions to learn if your health plan is going to protect you when you need it.
"Doctor, what hospital are you a member of? Is that hospital included in my plan? What if I need a specialist? How do I know he's high caliber? Board Certified? Does he work at the same hospital? What about laboratory work? X-ray services? Suppose I have a serious disease, like cancer? Will I be shut off from care?," said Robert Schlossman, M.D. of the New York State Medical Society.
Perhaps most importantly, do not be afraid to ask your doctor how he is paid. The new wave in health plans now is "capitation, " meaning a set fee per patient per month, no matter how much work the doctor does.