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Providers Grade Health Plans. Guess Who Still Stinks.

Jacqueline Fellows, for HealthLeaders Media, May 1, 2013

Hospital and health system leaders continue to have a poor opinion of WellPoint and UnitedHealthcare.

An annual survey of hospital leaders' opinions of large health plans, released Wednesday, shows both organizations fighting for last place among their peers, Cigna, Aetna, Coventry, Humana, and independent Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) plans. WellPoint ranked worst in overall favorability for the second consecutive year.

"It's, in some ways, statistically astonishing that a health plan that only directly contracts in 14 states can be perceived as having the worst reputation overall," says Brandon Edwards, CEO of Revive Health, which released the National Payor Survey.

WellPoint is the country's second largest insurer, and is coming off a rocky 2012 that included CEO Angela Braly's resignation and five consecutive quarters of earnings decreases, though it seems the company's financial forecast has turned around with its most recent earnings report showing higher-than-expected gains.

The survey questioned 373 hospital and health system leaders responsible for negotiating managed care contracts. They ranked independent BCBS plans as the most favorable health plan to deal with, which is ironic, since WellPoint is the BCBS licensee for more than a dozen states. It shows that a company can't take for granted a strong brand name. It has also to deliver on the brand promise.

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