Customer service, not hospital quality, is becoming a critical factor in consumers' satisfaction with their managed-care plans, a new survey indicates.
As plans' hospital and physician networks expand and overlap, customer service is emerging as an area of distinction, according to CareData Reports, a New York-based company specializing in consumer satisfaction surveys.
"Consumers are measuring their plans according to those things that demonstrate their plans' concern for their health and respect for their time," said Tod Cooperman, M.D., president of CareData Reports. For example, Cooperman said, consumers' decision to leave a plan often is influenced as much by their interactions with plan representatives on the phone as by their choice of hospitals.
The survey found that while 70% of HMO enrollees were highly satisfied with the quality and reputation of their hospitals, just 57% were highly satisfied with plan administration and customer service.
CareData's survey measured consumers' satisfaction with managed-care plans offered in five markets across the country (See chart). The 10,272 survey respondents were employees of 81 regional and national companies. Thirty-three plans were evaluated.
The percentage of members in all five markets who were "highly satisfied" with their plans ranged from a high of 69% to a low of 36%.
Top-ranked managed-care plans based on overall satisfaction
Market HMO Point-of-service plan
Connecticut Kaiser Permanente Aetna Health Plans
Greater Cleveland Aetna Health Plans QualChoice
Houston Cigna Health Plans MetraHealth
New Jersey Oxford Health Plans Aetna Health Plans
Southern California Kaiser Permanente --
Source: CareData Reports