Trust in Health Insurers Sinks to an All-Time Low

September 26, 2017

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Source: Modern Healthcare

Health system executives’ and physicians’ trust in health insurers has sunk to an all-time low, a new survey shows.

Health system executives level of trust in health plans dipped to a score of 52 out of 100 this year, compared to 54.1 in 2016, according to healthcare marketing and communications agency ReviveHealth’s 11th Trust Index report released Monday. Physicians gave health plans a score of 55.8 on the trust index, essentially unchanged from last year.

Consumers gave health insurers a score of 69, lower than their ratings for hospitals (74.2) and physicians (79.3).

The annual survey measures trust based on how honest, reliable and fair health system executives, physicians and consumers consider health insurers. It also looks at insurance executives’ level of trust in health systems and physicians.

For the major U.S. health plans included in the survey, health systems’ level of trust varied widely from 36.3 for the least-trusted insurer to 68 for the most trusted.

UnitedHealth, the nation’s largest health insurer serving 49.5 million members, scored the lowest. The Minnetonka, Minn.-based insurer has consistently been the least-trusted health plan since the survey began.

ReviveHealth would not provide the individual scores for each health plan.

Indianapolis-based Anthem’s score experienced the most significant decline year-over-year, and was almost as low as UnitedHealth’s, ReviveHealth CEO Brandon Edwards said. Anthem’s CEO is Joseph Swedish, former CEO of health system Trinity Health.

In a statement, an Anthem spokeswoman said the insurer “has a long history of working with providers to improve the accessibility, affordability and effectiveness of quality healthcare. We are advocates for our members and are committed to providing them with access to affordable, quality care.”

On the flip side, Cigna experienced the most growth and received the highest trust score of any other health plan. Anthem and Cigna have been locked in a legal battle over a $1.85 billion break-up fee that Cigna believes it is entitled to after their proposed merger fell through earlier this year.

The survey also asked respondents to rank Aetna, Humana and independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans. Edwards said the Blues plans’ scores have been steadily falling over the past few years, while Aetna and Humana’s scores haven’t budged much.

Aside from Anthem, insurers in the survey either declined to comment, were still reviewing the survey results or did not respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, insurers’ trust in health systems grew to 68.4 on the trust index, compared to 67.4 last year.

With health insurers’ trustworthiness at its lowest point, that hasn’t seemed to dent the plans’ bottom lines. Despite being the lowest in terms of trust, UnitedHealth added 2.5 million people to its membership total in the second quarter of this year, while growing revenue by 8%.

Lack of trust in insurance companies is unlikely to affect them financially because consumers have little choice in their insurance providers, Edwards said. In job-based insurance, where more than 150 million Americans access coverage, employers do the healthcare shopping. In the individual market, consumer choice has dwindled as health plans exit the exchanges due to financial losses and regulatory uncertainty.

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