When switching to a new health insurance plan, how will I know if my employees can continue to use their preferred physicians, hospitals and facilities?
When an employer changes its health plan, it often means moving from one provider network to another. An employer must consider the benefits of moving to the new network against the potential that some of its employees may need to find new doctors.
To assist employers with this analysis, RMC offers a healthcare provider audit. This audit compares the penetration of proposed service provider networks in the geographic regions that apply to eligible employees. The audit is based on a sample of primary care physicians, specialty care physicians, and facilities identified as providers of interest by the employer and its employees. Results are presented in an easy-to-understand format, which allows for easy comparison between the network alternatives.
Health insurance arrangements utilize provider networks to offer members access to medical services at pre-negotiated discount rates. Provider networks are often assembled by health insurance companies. Healthcare providers who elect to participate in a network agree to provide their services to network members at pre-negotiated discount rates, rather than at their usual “off-the-rack” rates. Healthcare providers benefit from this arrangement through the volume of plan participants steered to them by the network. Plan participants benefit by gaining access to the network’s discounted rates for medical care.
Provider networks range in size from regional to national, and in breadth of access from narrow managed care networks to broad open access networks. Customized local networks can be assembled with significant member volume (i.e., plans with thousands of insured members). The network options available vary by location and insurer. Multiple networks may be offered in situations where an employer requires broad regional or nationwide coverage, or where the array of choices available to plan members includes multiple insurance carriers.
An employer is considering switching health insurance carriers at renewal. However, the employer is concerned that switching insurance carriers might mean that some of its employees will lose access to their existing doctors or clinics. To ensure a smooth transition to a new carrier, the employer requests RMC to conduct a healthcare provider audit. The employer will use the healthcare provider audit to determine how employees will be impacted by the decision to change insurance carriers.
The first step in the audit is for RMC to provide the employer’s employees with a temporary link to a portal where each employee can identify the doctors and/or facilities they would like to include in the audit. The employees also identify the importance of each doctor and/or facility on a scale of 1 to 10; 1 being of low importance and 10 being of high importance. Lastly, they identify if they would like to keep the name of the doctor or facility confidential.
The window for submissions is typically limited to five business days, which can be extended at the employer’s request. Employee submissions on the portal are sent directly to RMC. Once the portal closes, RMC prepares an audit of the networks to assess compatibility with the providers identified by the employees. The results of the audit are provided in a simple table format, as shown below.
Table 1 – Service Provider Audit Results Example #1
In this example, Network A provides the least access to the requested service providers – two doctors, one infusion facility, and one major hospital do not accept Network A.
Network C provides more access when compared to Network A, but one facility and provider – marked confidential by an employee – do not accept Network C.
Network B provides the most access, with only one facility that does not accept Network B.
The relative importance of each provider also factors into the decision-making process. For example, the below audit was prepared using two networks.
Table 2 – Service Provider Audit Results Example #2
Network A provides the least access to the requested service providers – three providers do not accept Network A.
Network B provides the most access so the requested service providers – one provider does not accept Network B.
One might assume that Network B is the obvious choice since more doctors on the list accept Network B. However, the one doctor that does not accept Network B was marked as a 10 out of 10, in terms of importance. The sum of the doctors and facilities that do not accept Network A only adds up to 6. Therefore, an argument could be made that Network A is a better option.
When faced with a decision like Example #2, the relative importance of each provider, volume of participants, provider specialty, and a host of other factors should be considered in the decision-making process.