You’re not so happy with your health plan if you purchase it as an individual or receive it through a small employer. That’s the top-line finding of J.D. Power‘s 2009 National Health Insurance Plan Study.

What’s driving down health plan satisfaction is consumers’ lack of understanding of the benefit.

“Members still tend to be least satisfied with the information and communications they receive from their health plan—the third-most-important factor in overall satisfaction,” said David Stefan, executive director of J.D. Power’s health practice.

Consumers rate seven factors in J.D. Powers’ study:

  • Coverage and benefits
  • Provider choice
  • Information and communication
  • Claims processing
  • Statements
  • Customer service, and
  • Approval processes.

The top-rated health plans within their regions for 2009 are: Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kentucky; BlueCross and BlueShield of Alabama (these two plans tie in the East South Central region); BlueCross BlueShield of Arizona; BlueCross BlueShield of Florida; BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois; BlueCross BlueShield of Nebraska; Dean Health Insurance; Harvard Pilgrim Health Care; Health Alliance Plan (HAP); Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield; HIP Health Plan of New York; Humana (which ranks highest in the South Atlantic and Texas regions); Kaiser Foundation Health Plan (which ranks highest in the California, Colorado, Northwest and Virginia-Maryland regions); and Medical Mutual of Ohio.

The 2009 National Health Insurance Plan Study includes responses from more than 33,000 members of commercial health plans. Members were surveyed online in December 2008 and January 2009.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: J.D. Power’s findings among consumers’ lack of satisfaction with health plans brought me back to the Edelman Health Engagement Barometer’s research around health consumers and trust.

Consumers rank the credibility of employers and health organizations like health plans much lower for delivering health information to them than physicians, pharmacists, provider organizations, friends & family, and “people like me.”

But it’s health plans and employers who have the very information covered health citizens need to learn to become health plan literate. Health plan literacy can drive rational and effective use of health services for members, and better health outcomes and ROI for the employer who’s continuing to sponsor health insurance in these days of eroding plan support. How to address the problem? Better, more engaging, more targeted, and motivating communications.

Engaging covered employees — and individuals opting to purchase their own health plans on the open market — will create more trust and credibility for plans and plan sponsors and, along the way, lead to better health care and patient/enrollee outcomes.