SALT LAKE CITY — More than 22,500 surveys were mailed last week to health plan enrollees statewide.
The idea is that responses will provide information on how insurance plans are performing or suiting the needs of patients.
The 2013 Customer Satisfaction Report of Utah Health Plans is available online, providing yet another tool for Utahns as it becomes more important to "shop" for a plan that fits an individual family's needs, said Keely Cofrin Allen, health plan program manager for the Utah Department of Health.
"This is a broad look at what health plans are doing. It's easy for consumers to understand, and it is the stuff that customers can relate to," Allen said.
Consumers in Utah rate their doctors well above the national average across most plans, depicting "a high level of care and good relationships between physicians and patients," Allen said.
Deseret Mutual, PEHP, Aetna and Regence were the favorites among Utah consumers in 2012, while Humana landed at the bottom of the list. Medicaid plans rated better than private, commercially offered plans in many cases, though Allen said the two are very different types of plans.
When it comes to getting the care they need, those polled aren't satisfied.
"This means people are struggling to get the care they need when they want it," Allen said, adding that customer service ratings are also something to pay attention to.
Every other year, the survey is geared toward adult health care and child health care. Last year, questions were related to how health plans helped parents and guardians of children get the care they need for those children.
The health department does not make comparisons from year to year, but it may be an option in the future because surveys are available for more than a decade now.
The only thing that is clear so far, Allen said, is "an overall decline in health plan ratings over time."
In addition to questions related to customer satisfaction, the surveys help the state collect information on various health practices among children and adults, including routine doctor visits and disease screenings.
Each report depicts overall ratings for available health care plans in Utah, as well as satisfaction levels in specific categories, such as doctor and specialist performance, how quickly care is received, communication and quality of customer service.
"These are things consumers should look at," Allen said.
The state has been compiling and making public the comparative information on health plans offered in the state since 1999 "to promote informed consumer choice in health plan selection and measure the quality of care provided by Utah licensed health maintenance organizations," according to the administrative rule in effect that requires the report.
Ratings included in the report are based on surveys returned from a randomly selected group of consumers, of which about 24 percent respond.
Allen said that while the response rate in Utah matches that of the national average, it would behoove more consumers to take part, even if they don't have a bone to pick with their insurance company and can offer positive feedback.
"The data gets used," she said.
Results are not only utilized by insurance companies to enhance or adjust their products, but are also used to generate public health programs and target prevalent diseases in the state.
Plans that enroll more than 500 people must participate and pay heavily to do so. Fines are also imposed if companies fail to provide information included in the report each year.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: wendyleonards