A health plan that assistsmembers in keeping out-of-pocket costs low scores an average of 152points higher on the satisfaction scale than plans that make nosuch effort. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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A new U.S. Commercial Member Health Plan Studyreleased last week by data analytics and consumer intelligencecompany J.D. Power suggests that the fallout from COVID-19 may bedrawing attention to longstanding customer dissatisfaction withtraditional health insurance plans.

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Survey responses were collected from 31,283 commercial healthplan members, 60% of whom said that they were not contacted bytheir health plan with information or guidance related to theCOVID-19 virus. Another 48% indicated that their health plan has"not shown concern for their health" during the pandemic.

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Related: Consumer satisfaction rising for health plans—witha caveat

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"The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified these shortcomings, butthey are not new," James Beem, managing director, global healthcare intelligence at J.D. Power, said in a press release.

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To be sure, survey statistics point to a level of customerdissatisfaction that exists on a more general level beyond thescope of the pandemic. For example, only 36% of respondents saidthat their health plan acted in their best interest "always" or"most of the time." Meanwhile just 25% indicated that they sawtheir health and wellness provider as "a trusted partner in theirhealth and wellness."

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Those attitudes are likely reflected in the survey's overall2020 customer satisfaction score for health plan providers, whichrated 719 on a 1,000-point scale–the lowest of all industries thatJ.D. Power evaluates. Names such as Humana, Kaiser FoundationHealth Plan, Independent Health Association and Geisinger HealthPlan delivered some of the highest individual scores on astate-by-state basis.

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Care providers that make an effort to engage clients may see acorresponding rise in customer satisfaction levels. For example, ahealth plan that assists members in keeping out-of-pocket costs low scores an average of152 points higher on the satisfaction scale than plans that make nosuch effort.

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In the case of COVID-19 specifically, expanding telehealth usagemay be one way that health plans can boost their approval, with thesurvey linking it to a 30-point increase in overall customersatisfaction. But plans may have to clear up some initial confusionfirst. According to the survey, while 75% of U.S. respondents areaware of telehealth, 54% don't understand if those services areoffered as part of their health benefits.

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"If traditional health insurance plans want to resist thethreat from disruptors, they need todemonstrate partnership with members—and on behalf of employers—toimprove member health, reduce costs and help members navigate thehealth care system," Beem said.

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Frank Ready

Frank Ready is a reporter on the tech desk at ALM Media. He can be reached at [email protected].