Kaiser wins regional satisfaction ranking

Kaiser Permanente ranked first in customer satisfaction in the three-state region that includes Georgia, according to a 2012 study by J.D. Power and Associates released Tuesday.

The nonprofit health plan, with 240,000 members in the state, won the top honor in the region for the third straight year, earning 770 points on a 1,000-point scale. That was 66 points higher than the average for the South Atlantic region, which also includes North Carolina and South Carolina.

The national J.D. Power study also found support among health plan members for buying coverage through a health insurance exchange, an online marketplace that is required in states under the 2010 health reform law.

For its health plan rankings, J.D. Power — famous for its automobile reviews — measured member satisfaction among 141 insurers in 17 regions in the United States. It examined several factors, including coverage and benefits; provider choice; information and communication; claims processing; and customer service.

“We are honored that our commitment to excellent customer service was recognized again by our members,” said Kerry W. Kohnen, president of Kaiser Permanente of Georgia, in a statement. “We are particularly pleased that we garnered the highest scores in customer satisfaction in the J.D. Power study when measured against other health plans in our region.”

Humana and UnitedHealthcare finished second and third, respectively, in the South Atlantic region. They were followed by Aetna, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, Cigna, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Coventry, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Carolina.

The study was based on responses from 2,020 members in the region.

The national survey found that 55 percent of health plan members who buy insurance on their own would likely use a state health insurance exchange. And 39 percent of health plan members covered under an employer-sponsored program said they would shop for insurance through an exchange if one were available.

In Georgia, the process of building a health insurance exchange has been halted by the leaders of the Republican majority in the General Assembly.

In December, a study committee appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal recommended that the state pursue creation of an exchange for small businesses. But the legislative leaders said early this year that they preferred to wait until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the health reform law.

Oral arguments in the Supreme Court case are scheduled for later this month.