Consumers' Checkbook

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Consumers' CHECKBOOK
Checkbook Cover 2011.jpg
Consumers' CHECKBOOK cover Fall 2011/ Winter 2012
Executive Editor Kevin Brasler
Categories Consumer advocacy
Frequency Semiannually
Publisher Center for the Study of Services
Founder Robert Krughoff
Year founded 1974 (1974)
First issue 1976
Country  United States
Based in Washington, D.C.
Language English

Consumers' CHECKBOOK/Center for the Study of Services is an independent, nonprofit consumer organization founded in 1974 with the help of funding from the U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs and Consumers Union (publisher of Consumer Reports).[1] CHECKBOOK/CSS’s purpose is to provide survey information to consumers about vendor quality of services and prices.

The organization publishes Consumers' CHECKBOOK magazine in both print and online versions in the Boston, Chicago, Delaware Valley, Puget Sound, San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose, Twin Cities, and Washington, D.C., areas. Consumers’ CHECKBOOK evaluates the quality and prices of local service companies, professionals, and stores, such as auto repair shops, plumbers, doctors, dentists, banks, insurance companies, health clubs, garden nurseries, and kennels and makes the results available in its magazine and on its website.

Organization Background[edit]

Robert Krughoff, CHECKBOOK's founder, had the idea for CHECKBOOK magazine as he drove away from an auto repair shop where he had been three times for the same repair and realized he would have to go back again to get it done right. He concluded "it would be good if there was some way to find out which are the good auto repair shops."[2] CHECKBOOK has won the National Press Club's First Place Award for Excellence in Consumer Journalism, and in 2000 was honored, alongside its founder Robert Krughoff, with the Esther Peterson Consumer Service Award.[3] Consumers' CHECKBOOK is supported entirely by subscription payments and donations from individual magazine and website subscribers, and through revenue from selling its books and survey and information services. The organization does not accept donations from businesses and its publications carry no advertising.[4]

Health Care Research[edit]

Consumers' CHECKBOOK/CSS provides extensive information to consumers in the health-care field, including the annual Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees, a health insurance plan cost and quality comparison tool subscribed to online by many Federal agencies for their employees; the Consumers’ Guide to Top Doctors, providing a list of the specialists most often recommended when all actively practicing doctors in the 53 largest metro areas of the U.S. are surveyed and asked which one or two doctors in each of 35 specialty fields they would consider most desirable for care of a loved one; and the Consumers' Guide to Hospitals, providing ratings of more than 4,500 of America’s acute-care hospitals based on complication rates, death rates, ratings by doctors, ratings by patients, and other measures.

Consumers' CHECKBOOK/CSS also provides consulting and survey administration services to health-care organizations. Notably, in 1994, the organization, working with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, developed the first nationwide survey of health plan members for public reporting on 260 health plans.[5]

CHECKBOOK/CSS broke new ground in 2009 by demonstrating a rigorous, low-cost model for surveying patients about their experience of care with their doctors and making the ratings available free online. Denver-Boulder, Memphis, Kansas City, and New York (Manhattan) are currently available. Unlike what consumers might find elsewhere on the Internet, the doctor ratings at Patient Central are based on enough completed surveys to be reliable—on average, responses from more than 50 of each doctor's actual patients. This is a representative sample of patients who have had verified visits with the rated doctor within the past 12 months, identified with the help of leading health plans. The questions and procedures used in the survey were developed by the Federal government's Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Medicare Claims Data and Lawsuit[edit]

In 2006, under the Freedom of Information Act, Consumers' CHECKBOOK/CSS sued the United States Department of Health and Human Services for records of claims filed by physicians under Medicare. CHECKBOOK intended to use these claims to report the volume of experience each doctor had with various high-risk procedures where there is evidence that experience matters.[6] CHECKBOOK also argued that such claims data could be used by other organizations to see which doctors were, or were not, giving the proper tests and procedures for certain diseases; to spot hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent claims; and for other purposes. HHS held the belief that the release of such data enabled the user to identify individual physicians, and therefore was prohibited from doing so. CHECKBOOK won the case in the Federal District Court, but the ruling was reversed in the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court declined to take the case.[7] Since then, CHECKBOOK has continued to work, through the media and other channels for release of these Medicare records, and there has been some headway on this front.[8][9]

Car Bargains[edit]

Since 1990, Consumers' CHECKBOOK/CSS has also operated the car-buying and -leasing services, CarBargains and LeaseWise. They get bids on the model with the options you want from five local dealers, asking them to compete against one another. You get a detailed pricing report from each dealer and can go to any of them to purchase or lease your vehicle, but you’re under no obligation to do so.[10]


  1. ^ [1]CHECKBOOK About Us
  2. ^ David Kestenbaum, "New Web Site Lets Patients Rate Their Doctors", NPR, August 14, 2009
  3. ^ Consumer Federation of America Presents Annual Consumer Service AwardsConsumer Federation of America, June 14th, 2000
  4. ^ Annys Shin, "30 Years of Obsessive Consumerism", Washington Post, Dec 18, 2006
  5. ^ Mary Ann Maloney, "FEHB Customers Give High Marks to Health Plans for Second Consecutive Year", OPM News Release, October 11, 1995
  6. ^ Theo Francis, "Court Orders Medicare to Release Doctor Data for Ratings", The Wall Street Journal, August 24, 2007
  7. ^ Ricardo Alonzo-Zaldivar, "Appeals court rejects disclosure of Medicare data", FOX News, February 02, 2009
  8. ^ Michael O. Leavitt and Robert Krughoff, "Release of Medicare data could help reform health-care system", Washington Post, March 19, 2010
  9. ^ George Shultz, Arnold Milstein and Robert Krughoff, "More Transparency, Better Health Care", The Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2011
  10. ^ Jessica L. Anderson, "How to Use a Car-Buying Service to Find Deals on New Cars", Kiplinger, November 2011