Employers give insurers a middling grade on push to greater value: Leapfrog survey

Employers give health plans a middling grade in how effectively they're directing employees to high-value care, a new survey from Leapfrog Group shows.

Leapfrog analysts surveyed 174 employers nationally that represent 4 million covered lives and found that they on average give their insurer a 2.57 grade point average, or a C-plus, on driving greater value for employees.

Large employers were tougher on health plans than midsize employers, giving them a 2.42 GPA compared to a 2.69 GPA from midsize firms.

Among the specific insurers included in the survey, employers ranked UnitedHealthcare the lowest, giving it a 2.29 GPA. Blues plans, including Anthem, earned the highest GPA at 2.56, with Cigna and Aetna in the middle at 2.5 and 2.47, respectively.

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“While employers are favorable toward health plans in general they also show that the health plans need to improve really on their drive for quality, value, transparency—that seems to be lacking” Jill Berger, Leapfrog’s director of employee and payer engagement, told Fierce Healthcare.

UnitedHealth scored lowest pretty consistently across Leapfrog's survey. For example, 79% of the polled employers said Cigna cares about quality, compared to 69% for Aetna, 59% for Blues insurers and 52% for UnitedHealth.

Cigna also earned the highest markets on reducing unnecessary costs with 58% either strongly agreeing or agreeing that the insurer made it a priority, compared to 50% for Aetna, 47% for Blues plans and 43% for UnitedHealthcare.

The employers were also asked about insurers' responsiveness to their priorities, and 71% said they believe Cigna views improving health as a priority. By comparison, 63% said the same about Aetna and 52% about Blues plans and UnitedHealthcare.

Berger said the study results can serve as a planning tool for health plans and should make clear to them that employers are invested in the quality of care their employees access.

"Hopefully they’re going to see that employers want health plans that drive for value," she said. "This isn’t going away and it’s not a flash in the pan."