For the fifth straight year, Kaiser Permanente ranked No. 1 in customer satisfaction among health plans in a three-state region that includes Georgia, according...

For the fifth straight year, Kaiser Permanente ranked No. 1 in customer satisfaction among health plans in a three-state region that includes Georgia, according to a 2014 study by J.D. Power and Associates released Monday.

Kaiser Permanente's facility in Kennesaw

Kaiser Permanente’s facility in Kennesaw

Ranking second and third in the South Atlantic region were UnitedHealthcare of Georgia and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina.

The region consists of Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Kaiser does not operate in either of the Carolinas but has more than 250,000 members in Georgia.

The  study by J.D. Power – famous for its automobile reviews – surveyed 34,000 health plan members of 136 health plans across 18 U.S. regions. The survey targets six factors: coverage and benefits; provider choice; information and communication; claims processing; cost; and customer service.

Customer satisfaction was found highest among health plan members in the California and Michigan regions; followed by the Indiana-Illinois and Mid-Atlantic regions; and then the East South Central and South Atlantic regions. Satisfaction is lowest in the New England, New York-New Jersey and Southwest regions, the report said.

“What truly sets Kaiser Permanente apart from other health care providers is our coordination of patient care and commitment to quality and affordability,” Dr.
Rob Schreiner, executive medical director of Kaiser Permanente of Georgia, said in a statement. “We’re thrilled to know that people who choose us to provide
their health coverage and care are the most satisfied in the region.”

Kaiser nationally has very strong satisfaction scores, especially on communication, Rick Johnson, director of J.D. Power’s health care practice, told Georgia Health News.

The survey found that nationally, 41 percent of existing health plan members feel they do not have enough coverage for routine visits, serious illness or injury, health and wellness programs, routine diagnostics and drug coverage. Concern about not having enough health coverage has a worse effect on overall satisfaction than any other coverage-related issue, J.D. Power said in a news release.

Among other survey findings:

** 55 percent of members say they experienced an increase in costs in 2013. Not surprisingly, such increases negatively affect cost satisfaction.

** About one-third of members say they received a notice of changes in their coverage, networks or rates from their health plan in the past 12 months.

** In the 2013 plan year, 74 percent kept their preferred physician and 83 percent retained their same hospital network.

** The average monthly premium paid in 2013 was $285 for an individual.

Johnson said the survey, which covered commercial plans for employers and individuals, reflected changes in the health care system from the Affordable Care Act.

He said fewer people reported keeping their preferred doctor and hospital system than in the previous year.

But unexpectedly, he said, fewer people reported health premium increases, and fewer had to change health plans versus the previous year.

Changing health plans is a common experience for consumers, Johnson said. “In some ways, people potentially have to change their health plan every year.”

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Andy Miller

Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News

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