Today, we issued our press release on the Iowa Employer Perceptions of the Iowa Healthcare Provider Community. The results come from our 15th annual Iowa Employer Benefits Study©. This section of the study reveals compelling information that is both fascinating and relevant to Iowa employers – and to the entire state of Iowa. This type of study is a first of its kind in Iowa – perhaps in the country!
We’ve also just released our “Voices for Value” white paper which provides a comprehensive look at Iowa employer perceptions of the Iowa healthcare marketplace. I am very proud that the Iowa Association of Business and Industry (ABI) is the sole sponsor of this paper, as they have represented the “Voice of Iowa Business Since 1903.”
For the last 30 years, I have been keenly involved with employer-sponsored health insurance in Iowa. During most of that time, I assisted employers with evaluating and obtaining health coverage on behalf of their employees. As employers know, the complexities of health insurance requires a great deal of their time and effort each year to assure the ‘appropriate’ health coverage offering to their employees. This is an often-overlooked cost that is not factored into the health premiums paid by employers. Nonetheless, it is a necessary process that requires frequent employer attention.
Year-after-year, our annual studies indicate that Iowa employers continue to receive premium increases that exceed the inflation rate. In fact, since 1999, the annual Iowa single premium increased by 171 percent while the family premium increased by 158%. Despite these meteoric increases, Iowa employers continue to pay more than their ‘fair share’ of the premium costs – about 80 percent of the total single premium and about two-thirds of the family premium.
So why ask Iowa employers to assess hospitals and physicians within their communities? It’s quite simple. Employers play an enormous and critical role in funding the private insurance system. Unfortunately, when assessing the value received from the healthcare providers, they have been a relatively silent and diluted voice on how this investment is being used.
A silent voice? Yes, but no longer.
Iowa employers were asked on a 10-point scale, where 1 is “failing” and 10 is “excellent,” to assess 11 key performance measures. Employers reported that both hospitals and physicians within their communities are either ‘average’ or ‘below average’ on most measurements. However, two measurements that are most worrisome to employers, resulting in dismally low grades, are “Keeping Cost Reasonable” and “Cost Transparency.” Iowa employers feel that hospitals are a grade away from failing on both measurements, as they received grades of D-minus and D-plus respectively. Physicians were graded slightly better at D and C-minus, respectively. Based on the escalating premiums employers continue to pay each year, it is not surprising that employers are in a foul mood on cost issues.
Trusting Hospitals and Physicians
One last assessment measurement is the “Level of Trust” employers have with hospitals and physicians within their communities. Specifically in healthcare, trust is perhaps the most important measurement used to gauge the effectiveness of the services provided to the population. In this measurement, hospitals received a tepid B-minus from employers, while physicians received a mid-B.
The other grades given to hospitals and physicians are considered to be underperforming, particularly relating to measurements on patient care and the perceived outcomes received from patient care. More about these grades in later blogs.
One final comment regarding how employers graded their health providers. When asked to evaluate health providers, employer assessments come from ‘perceived’ attitudes about the various measurements being asked within the survey. Clearly, we need to know a great deal more on how our healthcare providers can meet the expectations of a key healthcare payer – the employer.
This particular survey provides a solid baseline on employer perceptions. Based on these results, future healthcare provider community assessments will be required.
I invite your comments regarding the grades employers assigned to both hospitals and physicians.
To learn more about this and other survey results, we invite you to subscribe to our blog.