Unnecessary hysterectomies are performed at rates that vary widely among managed-care health plans, according to experts preparing a new medical "report card" for consumers to use in choosing their plans.
The study is the first in a series of quality evaluations that could influence the success or failure of the "managed competition" approach to health care now being developed by the Clinton administration, the specialists say.
The need for hysterectomies -- operations to remove the uterus -- has long been a topic of controversy. Some reports have charged that many doctors who are paid under fee-for-service insurance systems perform the surgery far too frequently. But many women who belong to health maintenance organizations fear they may not be able to have the operation even if needed.
More than 500,000 hysterectomies are performed yearly.
The study will be published Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.