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More Employers Unhappy with Health Insurers, Says PWC Study

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, January 19, 2010

U.S. employers are less satisfied with health insurers, especially against the backdrop of tough economic times, according to a study released today by the PricewaterhouseCoopers' Health Research Institute.

Generally, employers, from small privately held companies to large multi-national firms, are taking a critical look at their health benefit strategies and the value they derive from it. Indeed, they are looking to their health plan providers for information technology and other strategies to help reduce waste in healthcare spending and better engage employees in managing their health, according to the study.

"Employers recognize that it's better to manage the health of their workforce than to manage the cost of illness, and they want their health plan to help manage the entire health continuum," said Paul Veronneau, principal and U.S. healthcare payer leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers. "There is only so much insurers can do to manage health and cost through provider discounts or on the back end of a claim. This is an opportunity for health insurers to look beyond traditional strategies and get more aggressive about healthcare quality and value."

In its report, entitled, "What Employers Want from Health Insurers in 2010," PricewaterhouseCoopers analyzed responses of nearly 250 employers. The analysis examined key service areas, such as financial, customer service, and claims administration.

Major findings include:

  • Overall satisfaction of health insurers by large employers has decreased from 64% in 2008 to 59% in 2009.

  • Small employers continue to be less satisfied with health insurers than large employers, with overall satisfaction at 52% in both 2008 and 2009. The gap between large and small employers is narrowing as large employer "satisfaction erodes," the report said.

  • About 60% of employers said they would further increase cost-sharing for healthcare with their employees in the year ahead.

The importance of wellness programs continues to be the area showing the greatest gap between large and small employers, the study found. Nearly 80% of large employers indicate that wellness programs are important to them, compared to 57% of small employers.

But "wellness programs and personal health records are the two service areas that experienced the largest increase in importance among small employers" since 2008, according to the study.

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