Employers aren’t happy with their health insurance carrier, and the rising cost of premiums is only part of the problem.

The inaugural J.D. Power and Associates 2010 U.S. Employer Health Insurance Plan Study finds that, in general, employers express relatively low levels of satisfaction with their primary health insurance carrier. Overall satisfaction averages 611 on a 1,000-point scale–even less than the already-low levels of satisfaction among health plan members in the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 U.S. Member Health Insurance Plan Study.

The study measures five key factors that affect employer satisfaction with carriers. In order of impact on the overall experience, they are: employee plan service experience; account servicing; product offering/product design; problem resolution; and cost/cost management.

J.D. Power and Associates notes CIGNA, Kaiser and other regional health plans perform “particularly well” in the employer study.

“Clearly, there is plenty of ground to be gained in terms of improving the employer experience,” said Rick Millard, senior director of the healthcare practice at J.D. Power and Associates, in a released statement. “Employers aren’t just looking for cost management. As in similar industries with low satisfaction levels, cost diminishes in importance when other aspects of the service experience are improved–which could have a huge impact, given how difficult it has been for health plans to contain costs.”

Nearly 80 percent of employers have reported experiencing a problem or issue with their health insurance carrier during the past 12 months.

“Given the high incidence of issues requiring employers to contact their carrier, the efficiency of the problem resolution process is a highly critical aspect of their overall experience,” said Millard. “More than 80 percent of employers that contact their carrier do so because they have a problem or issue to address, and for those that experience a problem, its resolution becomes the most important aspect of their overall carrier experience.”

Sixty-one percent of employers have used their insurance carrier for five years or less. Most employers indicate that lower rates or the physician network are the most important reasons for selecting their current primary health insurance carrier.

“While most employers haven’t actually switched carriers during the past five years, nearly one-half have said that they actively investigated switching,” said Millard. “However, 60 percent say they find it at least somewhat difficult to switch, which indicates that many employers may be less than satisfied with their carrier, but are prevented from switching because of issues such as limited choices and time constraints.”

The 2010 U.S. Employer Health Insurance Plan Study is based on responses from nearly 4,800 employers. The study was fielded online in February and March 2010 and includes performance by carrier for Aetna, CIGNA, Humana, Kaiser, UnitedHealthcare, and WellPoint/Anthem. Aggregate performance of other regional health plans and not-for-profit Blue Cross Blue Shield licensees are also assessed for comparison purposes.