Adequate coverage, timely communication key to member satisfaction

More than 40 percent of existing health plan members worry they don't have enough coverage for routine visits, serious illness or injury, health and wellness programs, routine diagnostics, and drug coverage. What's more, concerns about not having enough health coverage send overall member satisfaction plummeting by 133 points, according to J.D. Power's latest  Member Health Plan Study, released today.

The study measured satisfaction on a 1,000-point scale for members of 136 health plans across 18 U.S. regions and found overall member satisfaction averaged 669 this year.

Insurers saw the highest member satisfaction in California and Michigan. In California, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan took the top spot with a satisfaction score of 756, while Health Alliance Plan of Michigan scored the region's highest at 711.

Communication was among six factors measured in the survey, which found members wait an average of eight days to receive communication from their providers after submitting a pre-approval request.

"Health plans must look for ways to promptly communicate both pre-approvals and cost in order to minimize member anxiety and mitigate concerns about access to care, ultimately increasing customer satisfaction," Rick Johnson, senior director of the healthcare practice at J.D. Power, said in the study announcement.

The survey suggested insurers should better communicate how their insurance works as well improve communication about programs and services that increase member engagement, such as the ability to manage chronic conditions, Johnson told FieceHealthPayer in an interview.

"[It] sounds trite in some ways but communication is absolutely key to attracting new members and keeping members satisfied. With the shift to more responsibility for healthcare going to the consumer, those consumers are now looking at healthcare plans with a whole new lens," Johnson said.

The study also asked health plan members about provider choice. Seventy-four percent of members reported they maintained their preferred physician and 83 percent kept their same hospital network in 2013.

To keep existing members happy, insurers can use targeted email, phone call or print marketing campaigns to keep them engaged and informed, according to a recent white paper from Frost & Sullivan. Or they can take a page from the former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim, who credited a culture of service with achieving top-notch member satisfaction for the Massachusetts nonprofit health plan.

To learn more:
- here's the survey announcement