Health insurance carriers have been on the defensive lately, explaining how they can do a better job of managing health care expenses than the federal government, and agreeing to various reform proposals that promise to cut costs and increase the number of people with health insurance. They know that they aren’t the most popular kids on the block, and have been working to improve their public image.
I’m happy to see a recent report that indicates that health insurance companies are indeed working to be better stewards for the customers they serve – insureds and providers. In 2008, health insurance companies paid providers 5.3% faster and denied 9% fewer claims when compared with 2007. This is what the health insurance industry is in business to do: pay claims, and pay them quickly. Denying claims and delaying payments might save money in the short term, but it also generates ill will, which doesn’t bode well for long term success. In order to continue to be profitable, private health insurance companies have to prove to insureds and providers that they are helpful and worthwhile. I’m glad to see that they are making strides in this area.
The AthenaHealth report recently ranked Humana, Aetna, and Cigna at the top of a list of insurance companies, with rankings based on speed of payment, efficiency, claim denial rates, and several other factors. We have worked with Humana since our early days in the health insurance industry, and added Aetna to our lineup when they entered the individual market in Colorado a few years ago. Cigna – a major player in the large group market – entered the Colorado market with individual plans in January. It’s nice to see that the top three companies in the Athena report are all available for our clients in the individual market.
Hopefully 2009 will show more improvements in terms of how efficiently health insurance companies process and pay claims. And ultimately, we’d like to see them providing coverage for the nearly 50 millions Americans who are currently uninsured.