HMO vs PPO? It Depends On What You Think of Kaiser Permanente

by John Hansen

Choosing a Carrier Based on What You Think of Kaiser Permanente

For many, the decision between Covered California health insurance companies comes down to this question: “What do you think of Kaiser Permanente?” Or,“What do you think of Covered California Kaiser Plans?” Do you want to lock yourself into California’s one-stop shop HMO, or do you want the ability to choose? HMO vs PPO.

For many consumers, they are anything but indifferent about Kaiser Permanente. They love it, or they hate it.

Kaiser Permanente: Best Quality. Best Price.

Some wouldn’t even consider anything but Kaiser, California’s premier Health Maintenance Organization (HMO). They love walking across the hall from their primary care physician to go see a specialist and then grabbing their prescription drugs on their way out the door. They love Kaiser’s electronic medical record system and how it keeps all their various health care providers in the loop regarding health conditions, medications, allergies, past medical history and more. It’s a great system, and it works when it comes to offering high quality health care at affordable prices.

Blue Shield/Blue Cross: More Options. More Choice.

Others view the Primary Care Physician (PCP) of Kaiser Permanente and the other HMO’s as a “gatekeeper” or a prison guard who is keeping them from going straight to a specialist when they deem it necessary. They say things like…

  • “I don’t want to be locked into the Kaiser system.”
  • “I like my current doctor, and I don’t want to change.”
  • “I want choice.”

That’s when it’s time to start looking at the Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO’s). If you’re going PPO, that usually means you’ll be looking at Anthem Blue Cross Covered California and Covered California Blue Shield. In the PPO world, you’ll find more options and you’ll likely end up paying more money in monthly premiums to have this choice.