Advisers should work closely with health insurers to improve service fundamentals that drive employer satisfaction and commitment to benefit sponsorship, suggests new research that also identifies the best-performing vendors.

Such findings come at a critical time in health reform implementation, as analysts seek to understand employer frustrations and the potential impact on sponsorship. A controversial McKinsey survey said 30% of respondents would likely drop employee health care coverage in the years following the implementation of state exchanges, although other reports yield lower estimates.

Meantime, the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. Employer Health Insurance Plan study released today finds that employers might be more satisfied with their plans if service fundamentals improved. While advisers may not be able to control carriers’ attentiveness to these fundamentals, they can certainly use the findings underscore their importance to clients and the services they themselves provide.

Among the specific service actions that J.D. Power identifies as having a strong effect on satisfaction among plan sponsors:

  • Ensuring the carrier representatives understand the employer’s specific business needs.
  • Providing customized cost management solutions.
  • Processing claims efficiently and accurately.

“As employers evaluate how implementation of health care reform will affect coverage for their employees, it’s critically important for health plans to understand what is really driving their satisfaction,” says Rick Millard, senior director of the healthcare practice at J.D. Power and Associates.
“Health plans will have challenges if they need to emphasize marketing to individual purchasers, particularly with new medical loss ratio requirements. To retain employers as customers, paying attention to their service expectations will be as important as offering lower rates.”

Overall, five key factors are shown to affect employer satisfaction with carriers: account servicing, cost/cost management, employee plan service experience, problem resolution and product offering/benefit design.

The survey finds that Kaiser ranks highest among the fully-insured plans with 714 based on a 1,000 point scale, followed by Cigna (687), Aetna (666), UnitedHealthcare (666), Humana (661) and WellPoint/Anthem (659).

The survey finds that UnitedHealthcare ranks highest among the self-insured plans, with 665 based on a 1,000 point scale, followed by Cigna (641), WellPoint/Anthem (635), and Aetna (631).

The study received responses from 7,024 plan participants from small, medium and large companies between March and April of 2011.

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