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Hospital-Payer Experience Worsening Due to Insurer Practices That Delay Care

Analysis  |  By Jay Asser  
   November 11, 2022

The American Hospital Association (AHA) finds administrative policies are increasingly overburdening providers.

Some commercial health insurers are using policies that can delay patient care and create burden for providers, causing relationships with hospitals to worsen, according to a survey by AHA.

The association fielded responses from more than 200 hospitals in 2019 and from 772 hospitals between December 2021 and February 2022, creating data that both predates COVID-19 and represents the lasting effects of the pandemic.

With hospitals strained by the challenges of the labor shortage, the survey highlights how insurer tactics are stretching providers even thinner through administrative tasks.

Of the hospitals and health systems surveyed, 95% said there have been increases in staff time spent seeking prior authorization approval, while 84% reported the cost of complying with insurer policies is increasing.

The time and energy spent by providers is unnecessary, however, as 62% of prior authorization denials and 50% of initial claims denials that are appealed are ultimately overturned.

The result is deteriorating relationships with payers, as 78% of hospitals and health systems said their experience with insurers is worsening. Less than 1% said it was getting better.

"These survey results are stark evidence that some commercial health insurers deny care while hospitals and health systems focus on providing care," said AHA president and CEO Rick Pollack. "Patients deserve comprehensive health coverage with the protections they were promised when they signed up. Congress and the Administration need to act now to hold commercial insurers accountable for actions that delay patient care, contribute to clinician burnout and workforce shortages, and increase costs."

Medicare Advantage (MA) has especially come under scrutiny for often unnecessarily denying or delaying care. AHA pointed to a report by the Office of Inspector General from April which found that 13% of MA prior authorization denials met Medicare coverage rules and 18% of MA payment denials met Medicare coverage and Medicare Advantage organization billing rules.

To push for fairer coverage for both patients and providers, AHA wrote a letter to HHS secretary Xavier Becerra and Department of Labor secretary Martin Walsh asking for more oversight of insurers.

Jay Asser is the contributing editor for strategy at HealthLeaders. 


AHA surveyed hospitals and health systems to gauge the payer-provider experience with prior authorization and denials.

The vast majority (95%) of respondents reported increases in staff time spent seeking prior authorization approval and 84% said the cost of complying with insurer policies is increasing.

As a result, 78% of hospitals and health systems said their relationship with payers is worsening.

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