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AMA hands out health insurance report cards.

Posted on Jun 20, 2008 by Sergio Ulloa ()

The Health Insurance Industry Convention is currently well underway in San Francisco this week and even though its only been one day record numbers of protesters are showing up to rally against the current healthcare system in the USA. This is occurring in the same week as the American Medical Association released its health insurance report card to individual insurers. All in all, it's been a difficult week for American insurance companies.

Among the insurers rated by the report are companies like Aetna, Anthem BCBS, CIGNA, Coventry, Health Net, Humana, United Healthcare (UHC), and Medicare; and while the report has no 'grades' per-se, it does reveal some interesting facts about some of the country's top insurance providers. The major focus of the report is with relation to how quickly doctors are receiving payment form insurers for services rendered to policyholders and the consensus is that most insurers are too slow.

According to some AMA members physicians are spending approximately 14% of their annual income simply to receive payment from insurance companies. And in the current economic climate, this is simply an issue that will not stand with the AMA. Paying out claims is a key issue, and failure to complete payments in a timely and efficient manner is resulting in a large amount of unrest among primary caregivers.

According to the AMA the worst offender when it comes to paying claims at the contracted rate is United Healthcare (UHC), with only 62% of all claims being paid, while Medicare was the best with a 98% completion record. While some insurers are able to follow through on Doctors payments with limited hassle many insurance companies are simply dropping the ball.

This is leading to a number of Doctors starting 'boutique' medical clinics in an effort to remove themselves from the world of insurance. With boutique clinics patients will typically pay a monthly, or annual, retainer under which they are entitled to 24/7 access to their caregiver. In addition to this Boutique medical practices are focusing on a more personalized form of medicine by only working with a limited number of patients, something which is paying off as many people in the USA are jumping ship and leaving the traditional system of healthcare.

There is a problem though, Boutique practices, due to the level of attention and care provided are only accessible by patients who are relatively wealthy, meaning that the majority of the American population is unable to use these services, which brings us back to the insurance companies. As mentioned previously, the Health Insurance Industry Convention has been rocked by large numbers of protesters clamoring for a single payer healthcare system. Single payer healthcare was supported by a number of politicians running in the presidential primary elections, most notably Senator Hillary Clinton, however with John McCain and Barrack Obama sealing their relative party nominations this proposal has a very limited chance of being established.

With the presidential election coming up in November the issue of healthcare is becoming ever more important to the American Public. With a number of proposals being floated to address the current problems in the system it is clear that there will have to be a fairly radical reassessment of healthcare in the US. According to the AMA this reassessment process should start with the insurance companies rather than with healthcare providers or the system as a whole.

With a number of insurers failing to meet their requirements towards primary healthcare providers it is clear that something must be done to address the system. When the domestic insurer who has the best record in settling claims is the one that is administered by the government then maybe it is worth looking at initiatives that would see the government prop up the local market. All that remains clear at the moment is that this crisis of care will not end anytime soon and that everyone in the American healthcare industry needs to be looking at viable options for the future. Whether this is in regards to improved claims handling, better insurance policy coverage, subsidies for prescribed medicines, or simply looking to lower the cost of healthcare, something must be done, otherwise there may not be the standard of quality healthcare that exists in the USA today.

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