In a recent blog post entitled, Five Best Practices to Use Network Data and To Grow Your Business, we wrote about the ways carriers and network leasing companies can improve their position in network comparisons by better cleaning their data. Another point of view is from the brokers and consultants who use network analyses to help their customers choose the right benefit plans.
Shopping for employee benefits is complicated and time consuming. Employers and other plan sponsors typically rely on a broker or consultant to help them through it. Brokers and consultants know that network issues can turn a satisfied customer into one that goes out to bid in the blink of an eye. Even if everything else is right: price, benefits, service, and timely and accurate claims payments can’t outweigh a network that doesn’t fit the employee population.
As we pointed out in our other post, the best networks:
- Offer a wide range of choices: multiple general and specialty providers are included in the network
- Are convenient to use: providers are located near home or work
- Include popular providers and facilities: providers are the ones that members and their families want to use
- Save employers and employees money: in-network providers offer meaningful discounts that reduce out-of-pocket expenses and claim costs
Depending on the number of employees your customers have, different types of network analyses are probably available from your carrier partners. Generally, we see four types of network analysis:
- Network Counting – measure the quantity of providers in each network (available for groups of all sizes)
- Accessibility Analysis – correlate network provider locations to employee home and work locations (available for groups of all sizes)
- Disruption Reporting – match historical provider utilization and claims experience for a group to the providers in a different network (available for groups with at least 200 employees)
- Repricing – compare cost of claims for all providers (in- and out-of-network) if a different network were in place to the cost experienced in the current network (available for very large or self-funded groups)
As the primary users of network analyses, brokers and consultants are in a unique position to influence the requirements of each type of analysis. Keep these five best practices in mind as you work with carriers on your customers’ behalf:
- Insist on clean, accurate data so you get clean, accurate reports.
- Clearly identify required fields and formats in all file requests.
- Obtain claim data from the incumbent carrier whenever possible.
- Choose a consistent counting method for all reports to ensure that you are comparing apples to apples.
- Evaluate key specialties separately from the overall network based on your client’s needs.
With all of the changes from the Affordable Care Act, employers and other plan sponsors are relying on brokers and consultants more than ever.
How do you evaluate networks today?