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Md. integrated health insurance plans get high marks from consumers

Health insurers that integrate with providers to create an easy process for members score the highest on customer satisfaction, according to a new study from J.D. Power.

Maryland insurers scored highest for customer satisfaction among the regions separated by the J.D. Power report, buoyed by strong scores for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan.

“Integrated plans work well because [the insurer-provider relationship] is very clear,” said Valerie Monet, who led the study for J.D. Power. “With Kaiser, it’s all very clear. That’s one of the reasons they do so well.”

The study focused mostly on the type of group insurance that consumers would get through their employer. It did not look at state exchange plans or Medicaid plans.

Kaiser’s model consistently received top marks from consumers across the country because of the way it integrates providers. The insurer also runs a provider network, meaning patients go to Kaiser locations to see their doctor.

It’s also lead to an easier billing process, typically a top area of complaints for consumers. Generally, a patient in an integrated plan won’t see a billing statement.

“With Kaiser and most other integrated delivery systems, that doesn’t happen,” Monet said. “The other thing that they do, they keep their process simple and easy for people to understand.”

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and Cigna also put up strong customer satisfaction scores.

While integrated care systems lead to better satisfaction ratings from consumers, the study also found that communication skills can make or break a client relationship.

People want to know where they can go to the doctor and for what conditions they will get coverage.

“Communication is a huge hurdle for health plans. There’s so much that’s changing in how people are accessing their health care,” Monet said. “Being able to better communicate where to go for care and what will be covered.”

Conversely, poor communication and confusion can cause consumer dissatisfaction. Some of the symptoms of this can be denials, higher costs and patients not knowing where to find coverage.

Insurers can also better explain how their plans work. For example, explaining differences between copay and coinsurance can help improve relationships with consumers.

“I really think that one of the biggest things that plans can do is help members understand how their plans work,” Monet said. “Anything the plan can do to direct their members, ‘This is how this works,’ will help improve the relationships.”

For the study, J.D. Power surveyed 33,624 members of commercial health plans between January and March. It split the country regionally, with some states as their own region. Overall, there were 22 regions.

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