Newsweek magazine ranked Intermountain Health Care's Utah managed-care plans near the bottom during its annual survey of health maintenance organizations nationwide. The survey was released this week.

The IHC point-of-service plan received a C grade and was ranked 84 out of 96, while the IHC HMO for Utah got a C and a ranking of 88.The 96 plans ranked were those willing to participate in the survey. Some of the largest plans in the country, including PacifiCare, Aetna U.S. Health Care, CIGNA and Prudential declined to be part of the ranking.

Utah HMOs fared considerably better in customer satisfaction surveys conducted by the Utah Department of Health. Earlier this month, the state released news that "about 75 percent of Utahns surveyed were completely or very satisfied with their health maintenance organizations. More than one-third reported complete satisfaction with their health plans . . . And more than one-half of clients said they would recommend their HMO to family and friends."

The Utah survey included several managed-care plans, including IHC's, and "Intermountain Health Care plans did score very highly," said Denise Love, Office of Health Data Analysis, in the Health Department.

She added that the Utah surveys are based on uniform data collection rules "so we have a little more science behind it and independent evaluation of the data."

Although both plans were given a C grade for customer satisfaction by Newsweek, the point-of-service plan received B's for adult care as far as keeping patients healthy, helping them get well and helping them live with illness. The same categories received C's in children's care.

The IHC HMO received a B in helping adults stay healthy, and was given C's in all other categories.

Newsweek weighted the results 30 percent for pediatric care and 70 percent for adult care. Besides rating quality, consumer satisfaction and whether the programs are accredited was also listed.

Both Utah IHC plans are accredited by the National Committee for Quality Assurance in Washington.

Love noted that the Health Department's high customer satisfaction rating for 1997 had slipped about 5 percent from the previous year, due to a drop in favorable ratings for those with chronic conditions. And for the second year, getting medical care after hours or on weekends was the No. 1 complaint of those taking the survey.

The value of survey's like Newsweek's, according to Love, is that it "puts plans on notice that consumers are interested."

The Utah report is available on the Internet at (www.healthdata.state.ut.us). The issue of Newsweek containing the HMO survey is currently on sale at newsstands.