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Health plans slip in employers’ report card


The Leapfrog Group surveyed employers and found disappointing results for insurers. Employers say they’re most concerned with improving care, even more than managing costs.

Employers aren’t giving health plans top marks.

The Leapfrog Group, a healthcare watchdog group founded by large employers, surveyed 114 companies about their satisfaction with their health insurance plans. Employers were asked to evaluate their plans with a GPA, similar to the grading scale used in school.

Health plans fared worse than they did in a similar survey in 2020. Employers assessed health plans with a 2.29 GPA in 2022, down from 2.57 two years earlier. The Leapfrog Group released the results Thursday afternoon.

Leah Binder, president and CEO of the Leapfrog Group, said the “C” grade “is a somewhat depressing result if you’re a health plan.”

“Employers remain disappointed in many aspects of healthcare performance,” Binder said during a webinar outlining the survey’s findings.

Employers also made it clear that their top priority for their health plans is getting the best possible healthcare for their employees, and that surpassed the desire to control costs.

“It was surprising to even Leapfrog,” Binder said. “They want quality for their employees, and they really want health plans to step forward and make that happen.”

Managing costs remains a priority for employers, Binder said, but she added, “There’s no good price for bad care.”

If health plans can help workers get better care, then they may be able to avoid hospitalization, or they will have a shorter stay if they do need to be admitted, Binder said.

“Improving quality nearly always leads to a reduction in costs,” Binder said.

In the best score for health plans, 59% of employers said the plans gave workers easy access to usable data. While it’s a solid majority, it’s not exactly overwhelming, Binder suggested. “It’s actually not quite what I think health plans are going to be hoping for,” she said.

More than half of the survey’s respondents (57%) said they thought that plans cared about the quality of care, while 56% said improving the health of employees is a priority. A slight majority (53%) of employers said they thought their health plans were committed to reducing unnecessary costs.

However, health plans fared poorly in other areas of the survey. Only about a quarter of employers (26%) say health plans share quality and safety data. Health plans need to improve the transparency of data, Binder said.

In another area where health plans didn’t fare well, only 29% of employers said they were satisfied with options for alternative payment models.

In addition, 38% of employers said the health plans placed the employer’s needs over the hospital’s needs. In the view of some employers, health plans were more concerned with satisfying the hospital, Binder said.

Employers perceived “they were not treated as the client,” Binder said. “They simply were not considered a priority.”

Health plans aren’t always on the same page with employers, said Janet Lucas-Taylor, a vice president and director of benefits at Northwestern Mutual.

“We have misaligned incentives and goals between employers and health plans,” Lucas-Taylor said.

Employers also said health plans can do a better job assisting workers who are members of minority groups or those with disabilities.

Linda Brady, who directs healthcare strategy and policy for Boeing, said plans should provide for workers who are seeking providers, beyond simply saying if they’re accepting new patients or speak a different language

“We’ve got to get more transparent about who these providers are,” Brady said. “That’s an area where health plans can do better.”

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