The risk that a health maintenance organization will go broke, as Florida's International Medical Centers did, is slight.
For the consumer, however, there are a number of points to consider before selecting any health plan. Here are some questions to ask: How much does the health plan cost, including options and possible extras? What is covered, and what is not? In the hospital? At the doctor's office? Outpatient care? Dental care? Eye exams and eyeglasses? Prescription drugs? Is there a routine fee for medical appointments, even those for care that is otherwise covered? Can I select my own doctor and count on seeing that doctor regularly? Will I sometimes -- or usually -- be seen by a nurse-practitioner or physician's assistant instead of a doctor? If I'm dissatisfied, may I then see a doctor? What if I want to see a specialist? Must I have my doctor's approval? If I go to a specialist or other doctor outside the health plan, will the plan pay? Where do I go for care? Is it convenient? What are the hours? What if I have an emergency? What about nights, weekends, holidays? If I need to be hospitalized, do I have any choice in which hospital I go to? Can my policy be canceled for any reason? Can I renew it as often as I like? What if I have a complaint? Is there a specified ombudsman or patient representative to hear me out?