UnitedHealth troubles rise from the bottom

Based on my extremely unscientific survey (comments on the FierceHealthcare website), UnitedHealth Group doesn't have many friends right now. While having former CEO Bill McGuire give back $600 million may be legally sound--as he agreed to do this week--it doesn't appease those who aren't happy with the company's style over all. Legal compliance may be nice, but it does nothing to create good relationships.

Primarily, FierceHealthcare hosts comments from clinical and administrative professionals, who gripe and debate over issues internal to the healthcare industry. But in this case, angry consumers troubled by their interactions with UnitedHealth are finding us too--and I can tell you that this isn't happening with any other health plan, even those accused of major wrongdoing.  "I have been on the phone with [UHG] at least 12 times in the past 3 weeks," writes one mother. "Every time I call them they put me on hold for 10, 15, 20 minutes and then I get ooops disconnected," another woman writes.

Not only that, the often-ignored front-line workers of the industry have been expressing their discontent as well. "I worked in medical claims filing for 11 plus years," writes one medical biller. "United is the worst insurance company to deal with on the face of the earth."

Now, I realize that a company the size of UHG doesn't discover problems one morning and fix them a day later. I also realize that handling life-and-death issues like an SEC investigation may have to come first. Still, if UHG is doing anything much to make providers, administrators or consumers feel good about them, I haven't heard anything about it.

OK, UHG, it's your turn. If anyone out there is a UHG executive, and wants to present their side of the story, I implore you to do so.  Are there new provider or consumer-friendly initiatives you're taking?  Let's talk about them. And readers, if UHG responds, I'll let you know what I find out here in this space.- Anne