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Kaiser Permanente has highest employer satisfaction: Survey

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A recent survey of more than 6,500 employers ranked Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente highest among large U.S. health insurers in terms of overall satisfaction with fully insured plans.

The survey results, released in limited fashion last week by Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based J.D. Power & Associates, also ranked Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna Inc. highest among self-insured plan providers for employer satisfaction.

Out of a possible 1,000 points, employers awarded Kaiser Permanente a score of 716 based on its performance in the six key areas of overall service experience, account servicing, program offerings, benefit design, problem resolution and cost.

Kaiser Permanente scored more than 40 points above the industry average mark of 672, and received top ranking in every category among fully insured plan providers except in benefit design.

In an interview, Kaiser Permanente Senior Vp Christine Paige said she believes the organization's blending of insurance services and medical care delivery was a key consideration in employers' evaluations of its services.

“The integrated approach that we have really does enable our high performance on cost and quality of service,” Ms. Paige said, adding that Kaiser Permanente was also ranked highest in employee satisfaction among fully insured plans.

“All of the physicians and caregivers that members might encounter are linked together in a system that has a unified incentive structure and drive toward preventive care, as well as a common electronic medical records system that enhances the coordination of care,” Ms. Paige said. “That drives service, it drives quality and we feel makes for a much better patient experience.”

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Ms. Paige said the company also emphasizes responsiveness and transparency in its relationships with benefits managers as they seek greater clarity and context on employee health trends.

“Employers have a huge concern around that these days, and we think we're a leader in the kind of reporting that provides insight for our customers,” she said.

At the other end of the spectrum, employers ranked the two largest U.S.-based publicly traded health insurers last in overall satisfaction. Indianapolis-based WellPoint Inc. placed lowest among rank-eligible fully insured plan providers with a satisfaction score of 655, more than 20 points below the industry average.

WellPoint also ranked last in employer satisfaction among self-insured plan providers with a score of 629, 33 points below industry average.

Minnetonka, Minn.-based UnitedHealth Group Inc., the nation's biggest publicly traded health insurer, ranked second to last among fully insured plan providers with a score of 661. The company placed second among rank-eligible self-insured plan providers, but still scored two points below the industry average of 662.

A spokeswoman for WellPoint said the company does not believe the study accurately reflects the sentiments of the employers it serves because the study did not factor network breadth and wellness support into its evaluations.

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“WellPoint has a proprietary research program that we believe is more robust and is used to drive process improvements that directly benefit members in its affiliated health plans,” the spokeswoman said. ”Every year WellPoint surveys almost 4,700 employers to evaluate their overall satisfaction with its affiliated health plans, and those results drive our continuous improvements. In fact, one of the areas where our affiliated health plans have excelled and outperformed competitors is in network breadth.”

Despite its objections to the study's methodology, WellPoint's spokeswoman said the company takes all feedback seriously and is regularly looking “for ways to improve.”

A spokeswoman for UnitedHealth Group said the company's internal research indicated that member satisfaction, measured through post-call surveys, is currently 93.5% and “continues to climb.”

The company also cited several external evaluations and awards—including the 2011 and 2010 Business Insurance Readers' Choice Award for “Best Health Plan in the U.S.”—as evidence of satisfaction among its customers.

“The J.D. Power study is one of many snapshots of a health plan's performance,” the spokeswoman said. “A variety of third-party sources have validated a high degree of member, employer and care provider satisfaction with UnitedHealth.”