When it comes to satisfaction ratings, physicians in Houston have turned the tables on payers! In a groundbreaking survey, the Harris County (Texas) Medical Society allowed physicians to rate health insurance companies. Results were made available late last year and were widely publicized across newspapers and healthcare magazines. It seems only fair that physicians, who increasingly find themselves rated by health insurance companies, should get the opportunity to turn the tables and rate the health insurance companies for the benefit of their patients.

“All insurers were rated very low by doctors in most areas, and the response was quite uniform,” said Kimberly Monday, M.D, a neurologist and Vice-Chairwoman of the Harris County Medical Society’s board of medical legislation. “The survey shows insurance companies are failing patients, doctors and employers who pay for healthcare services by creating ways and resistance to hold onto their money.”

487 physicians in Houston responded to the survey, which evaluated Aetna, Cigna, Humana, The Texas Blues, Unicare, and UnitedHealthcare. Here are some interesting statistics from the survey:

  • More than 65% of the doctors reported they have experienced difficulty getting their patients’ medical services approved.
  • 69% have problems with prompt payment, and 64% say they are paid less than their contracted rate.
  • 58% say their patients do not understand benefits, copayments, deductibles and limitations of their coverage.
  • 65% say their patients rarely understand preventative services and care-coordination services available to them.
      The Harris county group is not the first medical society to conduct a survey on health insurers – the Colorado Medical Society has conducted several similar surveys. The difference is that Harris County chose to make their results public and transparent. In the age of transparent healthcare services, this will probably become a trend. This means that health insurance companies may need to pay as much attention to physician satisfaction as they do to employer and beneficiary satisfaction.

      For laboratory administrators and pathologists, the attention garnered by the Harris County Medical Society physicians’ rating of payer services demonstrates how transparency is opening up new channels of information for the public. Many patients are smart enough to know that if their health insurance company treats doctors poorly, that can affect both the patients’ access to care and the quality of care they receive. That is why public disclosure of physician satisfaction with different health plans can trigger improvement in how payers work with providers.

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