Health insurers get poor marks from hospitals
UnitedHealth is rated worst of the bunch in a a survey of
By Lisa Girion, Staff Writer
Thursday, March 6, 2008
The nation's biggest health insurers lately have taken to rating
hospitals on quality and cost, saying the information can help
patients make better choices.
Now, hospitals are giving insurers a dose of their own medicine.
A survey of hospital executives to be released today found some
national insurers have image problems of their own.
Three of the nation's five largest insurers had higher negative
approval ratings than positive ones, according to the effort to
gauge relations between hospitals and the insurers who hire them
to take care of their members.
UnitedHealth Group Inc., which has contracts with 96% of the
hospitals responding to the survey, was hit with the worst
ratings. The Minnetonka, Minn.-based insurer received an
"unfavorable" opinion from 91% of the hospital executives who
responded, while 8% gave it a "favorable" rating. United
owns PacifiCare of California.
Indianapolis-based WellPoint Inc., which owns Blue Cross of
California, was second-worst with 48% unfavorable and 20%
favorable. Philadelphia-based Cigna received 47%
unfavorable and 44% favorable.
Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna got
the best score with 57% favorable and 37% unfavorable.
Other positively rated insurers included Coventry/First Health
and regional insurers that were rated as a group.
United challenged the findings and methodology of the report.
"UnitedHealthcare ranks above the industry regarding claims
payments," said spokesman Tyler Mason, adding that it pays more
than 20 million claims a month -- 95% of them within 10 days.
"We are working with many hospital systems to improve electronic
claims submission to reduce the time to pay claims," Mason said.
"Our goal is to work directly and collaboratively with hospitals
to decrease administrative cost and complexity so that hospitals
receive fair compensation for services at the same time
balancing the overall healthcare cost in line with the consumer
price index on behalf of our members."
A spokeswoman for Blue Cross parent WellPoint said it was
reviewing the survey and that it took it upon itself to stay
abreast of hospital executives' opinions through its own
Jan Emerson, a spokeswoman for the California Hospital Assn.,
said the survey confirmed "what we are hearing from a lot of our
member hospitals about health plans that operate in
California, particularly the two largest
ones, United and Wellpoint."
Davies Public Affairs, a
firm that represents some hospitals, commissioned the survey.
It was conducted by Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates Inc., a
polling firm whose clients include politicians, corporations and
the American Insurance Assn. The results were based on
interviews with 113 executives representing more than 500
hospitals, or 10% of all U.S. hospitals.
The findings could help consumers shop for coverage, said
Brandon Edwards, chief operating officer of Davies.
"It's definitely a wake-up call for the employers," Edwards
said. "When you pick a health plan for your employees,
think very hard about what the health plans' relationships are
with their primary providers."