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Health care policyholders less satisfied with their insurance companies in 2009, national survey shows Posted: May 18th, 2010

By Rebecca Theim

Rebecca began her career as a daily newspaper reporter and also has worked in senior PR and communications roles.

Policyholders' satisfaction with their health insurance plans fell significantly in 2009 over the previous year, according to an annual survey by J.D. Power and Associates. The U.S. Member Health Insurance Plan Study measures satisfaction among members in 133 health plans located in 17 regions across the United States.

On average, the 34,000 people surveyed gave their health insurance companies a grade of C- (or an average score of 701 on a 1,000-point scale). The poll asked questions about seven factors related to respondents' health plan coverage:

  1. Coverage and benefits
  2. Provider choice
  3. Information and communication
  4. Claims processing
  5. Statements
  6. Customer service
  7. Approval processes

Ratings declined in all categories except customer service, which was essentially unchanged from 2008 levels. Respondents were significantly less satisfied with their coverage and benefits, and information and communication from their insurance companies in 2009 compared to 2008.


  1. SelectHealth
  2. BlueCross BlueShield of Arizona
  3. UnitedHealthcare


  1. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan (only plan to rate above region average)


  1. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan
  2. Great-West Healthcare
  3. CIGNA

East South Central (Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee)

  1. BlueCross Blue Shield of Alabama
  2. CIGNA
  3. Humana


  1. CIGNA and United Healthcare
  2. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida

Heartland (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska)

  1. BlueCross BlueShield of Nebraska
  2. Wellmark BlueCross Blue Shield
  3. BlueCross BlueShield of Kansas City


  1. BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois (only plan to rate above region average)


  1. Health Alliance Plan (HAP)
  2. Priority Health (only plans to rate above region average)


  1. Dean Health Plan
  2. HealthPartners
  3. BlueCross BlueShield of Minnesota

New England (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont)

  1. Harvard Pilgrim Health Care
  2. Tufts Associated Health Plans
  3. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island

New York-New Jersey

  1. Independent Health Association
  2. Aetna
  3. BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York and BlueShield of Northeastern New York

Northwest (Idaho, Oregon, Washington)

  1. Group Health Cooperative
  2. Providence Health Plan
  3. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan


  1. Humana
  2. Medical Mutual of Ohio
  3. CIGNA


  1. Capital BlueCross
  2. Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield
  3. Geisinger Health Plan

South Atlantic (Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina)

  1. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan
  2. BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina
  3. UnitedHealthcare


  1. Humana
  2. BlueCross BlueShield of Texas
  3. UnitedHealthcare

Virginia-Maryland-Washginton, D.C.

  1. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan
  2. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Virginia
  3. CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield

Lack of communication at heart of problem

Although lack of communication doesn't fully explain the decline in satisfaction, it is a critical component in this year's results, according to Jim Dougherty, director of the healthcare practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "While satisfaction with many plans has declined this year, satisfaction decreases are less severe for those plans able to substantially increase member understanding" of their coverage and any changes that occurred during the year, Doughtery said in a statement.

Health plan executives can address members' dissatisfaction through proactive communication with members about what their coverage actually includes and by ensuring that coming changes to benefits, physician and hospital networks, and costs are adequately explained, Doughtery added. Survey results show that members who better understand their policies are more loyal and more likely to recommend their provider, but only four in 10 survey respondents reported that they fully understand their plans.

Satisfaction varies by region

Respondents in Pennsylvania, Michigan and New England were the most satisfied with their health insurance plans, although average satisfaction score in each region declined precipitously compared with the previous year.

The top three plans in overall member satisfaction in each region were: