Objectives: Member satisfaction is commonly used as an indicator of the quality of care delivered by health plans. Yet few contemporary studies have explored the extent to which individual patient characteristics influence dissatisfaction in HMOs. We sought to determine whether socioeconomic status is associated with enrollee dissatisfaction.
Methods: Data are from a cross-sectional, telephone survey of a probability sample of adults enrolled in New Jersey HMOs in 1998 (n = 7,983). Health plan ratings were elicited as part of the Consumer Assessment of Health Plans Study (CAHPS) survey, along with income, education, and race/ethnicity. Other factors known to influence satisfaction (age, gender, health status, extent of plan choice, and payment for plan) were also ascertained.
Results: Socioeconomically advantaged enrollees were more likely to give low ratings to their health plans. In a multivariate logistic regression model, those with incomes exceeding $100,000 had 1.65 times the odds of being dissatisfied compared with those with family incomes less than $25,000 (P <0.001); those with a college education had 2.53 times the odds of being dissatisfied than those who had not completed high school (P <0.001). However, among enrollees in their plans for > or =5 years, those in the lowest income group were significantly more dissatisfied than higher-income enrollees.
Conclusions: Among New Jersey HMO enrollees, higher socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with greater dissatisfaction. Although based on cross-sectional data and thus preliminary, the evidence presented here also suggests that the SES-dissatisfaction relationship varies as a function of duration of enrollment. Further research using longitudinal data could shed additional light on the SES-dissatisfaction link.