Employers Rank Cigna Highest, UnitedHealthcare Lowest for Driving Health Care Quality in A New Survey of Employee Benefits Executives

July 22, 2020

WASHINGTON D.C. - The Leapfrog Group, an independent national watchdog organization representing employers, today released findings on employer perspectives regarding health plan effectiveness in achieving health care quality, safety and value. Conducted as a confidential online survey, a total of 174 employers nationwide participated, representing an estimated 4 million insured lives. Survey respondents were executives that administer and fund benefits for employees and dependents. Respondents cited their experience with health plans including Aetna, Cigna, UnitedHealthcare, as well as a range of BlueCross and BlueShield (BCBS) plans, including Anthem and more than a dozen state BCBS plans.

The survey prompted employers to identify which health plan(s) they partnered with, and rate those plans on the following four key issues: Responsiveness of the health plan to employer concerns; transparency in helping employers and employees choose the best providers; payment reform initiatives that incentivize excellence in the market; and, value strategies driven by health plans.

Among the plans reported in the survey, respondents gave Cigna the highest marks for its efforts towards driving for value. Respondents gave UnitedHealthcare the lowest ratings, with the most room for improvement in value, reducing costs and improving quality. Cigna led among plans for putting a focus on quality.

“We congratulate Cigna for achieving the highest ratings from their employer clients,” said Leah Binder, President & CEO of The Leapfrog Group, “But no health plan is earning an ‘A’ from their employer clients for improving health care, and that is disappointing.”

“As a former health benefits executive myself, I’m not surprised that employers said their health plans were less aggressive about quality and transparency than employers preferred,” said Jill Berger, Leapfrog’s director of Employee and Payor Engagement, ”This survey brings into focus the conversations employee benefit executives have been having for a long time.” Berger was previously a health benefits executive for Marriott International and GM, among other companies.

“The survey should serve as a wake-up call to health plans. Employers are not convinced they are doing all they can to improve quality and cost-effectiveness. Health plans need to be more responsive to employer demands for improvements in health care,” Binder added.

Key findings of the survey include:

  • Just over half (52%) of employers feel their health plan is on their side in reducing unnecessary health care costs. UnitedHealthcare was rated lowest among plans on this factor, with only 43% of their employer clients satisfied. 
  • Only about a third of employer respondents agreed that their health plans put their needs above those of contracted providers.
  • Cigna earned the highest ratings for putting a priority on improving the health of employees, with 71% approval from respondents that identified Cigna as their health plan, while UnitedHealthcare and BCBS plans earned the lowest ratings with 52% approval.
  • Only 29% of respondents are satisfied with how well plans give employees tools to compare hospital systems on quality.
  • Aetna achieved the highest ratings for transparency, with 31% approval among employer respondents, while BCBS plans earned the lowest ratings at 21% satisfaction.
  • Overall, employer respondents gave their plans a “C” when asked to grade their health plan.  The larger employers were tougher on the plans than the midsize to small employers.
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