Health Affairs, Vol. 18, page(s): 137-145
Six states require health plans to provide or authorize second medical opinions (SMOs). The intent of such legislation is to preserve consumer choice, to improve the flow of information, and to improve health outcomes in this era of managed care. However, it is unclear who benefits from these laws. This paper reviews the changing role of second opinions and, using a nationally representative data set from the Commonwealth Fund, examines who gets them. Of persons who had visited a doctor in the previous year, 19 percent received a second opinion, for an estimated cost of $3.2 billion in 1994. Findings suggest that cultural norms and sociocultural factors may partially determine who may benefit from SMO legislation.