Laura Colbert, executive director of the advocacy group Georgians for a Healthy Future, said the mass health insurance loss “spotlights a real weakness in our health system.” “On the other…
This morning, Governor Deal signed SB 302 into law! GHF strongly supported this bipartisan bill to improve the accuracy and usability of provider directories throughout the 2016 Legislative Session. Provider directories play a critical role in informing patients and consumers about which doctors are in their plan, yet they are notoriously error-ridden. SB 302 is an important step towards making provider directories the accurate and functional tool that consumers need to make the best health care decisions for themselves and their families.
Thank you to all who followed this issue throughout the Legislative Session and helped bring it across the finish line by contacting your legislators at each stage of the process!
Georgia’s proactive move is being noticed by national health policy organizations. Families USA’s Private Insurance Director Claire McAndrew’s blog post, How States Are Improving Consumers’ Access to In-Network Health Care Providers, prominently features the bill and GHF’s role in its passage. Another national organization, Community Catalyst, featured GHF’s Executive Director Cindy Zeldin as a guest blogger on the topic. This post, Protecting Health Care Consumers in the Peach State, provides an in-depth look at the policy process and next steps. Here in Georgia, the bill’s progress was covered by Georgia Health News back in March.
During this process, we created a series of resources to educate advocates, stakeholders, and policymakers.
Provider directories, or the listing of health care providers that are participating in a particular health plan, are intended to inform patients and consumers about which doctors are in their plan and how they can contact them to set up an appointment. For these directories to serve as the tool that consumers need, they must be accurate and up-to-date. A secret shopper survey conducted by the statewide consumer health advocacy organization Georgians for a Healthy Future, however, found these directories to be error-ridden, a problem that places consumers at risk when they seek to access an appropriate in-network health care provider. An analysis of four provider directories associated with plans offered by three of the state’s largest insurers found:
» Three-quarters of the listings had at least one inaccuracy (not in-network, not accepting new patients, not practicing at the location listed, inaccurate or inoperable phone number, or languages spoken inaccurately listed)
» One in five health care providers listed as participating in a plan’s network were not; in one directory forty percent of the providers listed were not actually participating in the plan » Among the providers who were confirmed to be in-network, thirteen percent were not accepting new patients; in one directory one in four confirmed in-network providers were not accepting new patients
» Fifteen percent of telephone numbers associated with providers listed in the directories were inaccurate or inoperable
These inaccuracies and usability limitations make it difficult for health care consumers, particularly those who haven’t had insurance before, to find and access an appropriate medical care provider. Setting basic standards for provider directories and protections for the consumers who rely upon them would go a long way towards making provider directories the tool that patients and consumers need when they shop for and use their health insurance.
Download the full set of findings here.