Health execs rate UnitedHealthcare interactions poorly

NASHVILLE, TN: Hospital and health system executives gave UnitedHealthcare the lowest marks of all major insurance providers in terms of their dealings with the company, according to a survey from ReviveHealth.

NASHVILLE, TN: Hospital and health system executives gave UnitedHealthcare the lowest marks of all major insurance providers in terms of their dealings with the company, according to a survey from ReviveHealth.

The healthcare specialist agency interviewed 373 hospital and health-system executives in February and March for its Seventh Annual National Payor Survey.

Their unhappiness with the company was based on several factors, including the speed at which it pays hospital claims, reimbursement rates, timeliness in contract negotiations, and reputation for dishonesty. The study flagged the last point as particularly worrisome, noting that “there can be no relationship without trust and honesty.”

Revive CEO Brandon Edwards said UnitedHealthcare appears to have prioritized its relationships with other groups.

“It seems that they picked employers and seniors as the ones they want to satisfy,” he said. “As long as they pay [hospitals] enough to keep them available to the members in their network, I'm not so sure they care about their happiness.”

The survey also found that WellPoint, which runs Anthem Blue Cross in California and health plans in 13 other states, had an overall favorability rating of 16%, compared with independent Blue Cross Blue Shield plans' rating of 49%, which was tied with Cigna. Independent Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, however, ranked ahead of Cigna in terms of which companies are best to deal with by a margin of 30% to 19%.

Three years ago, UnitedHealthcare expanded its “Medicare Made Clear” guide into an integrated campaign that aims to educate Medicare-eligible consumers about recent changes to the government program.

Based on the same factors UnitedHealthcare was judged on, participants said Blue Cross Blue Shield was the best overall plan, ranking high in all evaluation areas with the exception of the rate it pays providers, an area where it was beat by Aetna.

Respondents complained that UnitedHealthcare says it will pay one amount for treatment during contract negotiations, then covers “something significantly less.” They said Blue Cross and Blue Shield is more upfront and that it will pay less for some things.

This year, 92% of those surveyed said they negotiated contracts with UnitedHealthcare, down two percentage points from 2012. Meanwhile, Blue Cross Blue Shield plans saw an increase of 15 percentage points in terms of negotiated contracts compared with last year.

“UnitedHealthcare contracts with approximately 6,000 hospitals and more than 650,000 physicians across the country. This very selective (only 351 hospitals were interviewed), non-scientific, web-based survey misrepresents the positive relationships that UnitedHealthcare has with most hospitals,” said Tyler Mason, VP of communications at UnitedHealthcare. “Productive, collaborative relationships between hospitals and payors are important if we are going to make progress together in modernizing our nation's healthcare system, and UnitedHealthcare has taken a number of steps to improve how it works with healthcare providers.”

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