Health plan survey – 2003

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Health plan survey – 2003

by Tony Novak, CPA, MBA, MT
, revised 11/21/11

Background and methodology

OnlineAdviser service provides free financial advice and support to about ten thousand people each year through a network of Web sites, trade associations and traditional providers of financial services. The large majority of the people who use this service communicate only electronically through e-mail and paper-based surveys. About one thousand of the users have direct personal contact with an adviser by telephone or in person. 

We collect informal data on a number of issues for our own business purposes and publish a handful of articles based on the trends.

Because of the lack of other comparable information about consumer attitudes toward health plans, we have no way to evaluate whether our results are representative of a wider range of health plan members.  


This survey is based on raw counts of comments over the year. It is not weighted in any manner and the results are not tested in accordance with any statistically meaningful testing method.

 Counts are based solely on notes collected during the telephone or in-person communication and stored in the OnlineAdviser database. When a person calls or writes, a short note is automatically or manually entered into a searchable database. The database includes the name of the health insurance carrier for about a third of the users. From these notes, we conduct a search of keywords for the purpose of identifying recurring items.

Comparison of results with prior year survey

Results are little changed from 2002 and prior years. This year’s responses simply reinforced the trends that were already established in prior years.

Highest Rated Health Plans

Health Plan Administrators (HPA)1 was the only company that received a significant number of compliments without a single complaint. HPA handles online enrollment for a number of health and dental plans. The most popular plan is their three year medical plan issued by Clarendon Insurance and Banker’s Life. (This plan is listed under the brand name “Freedom / FlexTerm” for most states on the Freedom Benefits Web site). This plan offers coverage long enough to satisfy most people, but does not require the long application process. Policies and ID cards are available immediately online at the completion of an enrollment that takes less than five minutes. Compliments 4, Complaints 0 

Celticare health plans were commended and also had no complaints from policyholders. One OnlineAdviser user who did not enroll did not like the 100% online enrollment process.2 Two complained about not enough information to the desire to review a plan document in writing3. (Compliments 7, Complaints 3)

Fortis4 made the list for both the number of compliments and the number of complaints (see below). Users seem to love the telephone application process and hold a positive image of the company’s financial stability and trustworthiness. Yet the number of complaints was also high. (Compliments 6, Complaints 6)

Worst rated health plans

Mega Life had easily ten times the number of complaints as all other health plans combined. I was actually pushed to do a recount of the complaints in the middle of the year when the company’s lawyer set me a threatening letter challenging a similar comment made in another publication. Based on my conversations with a few dozen of this company’s customers I came to the conclusion that you will be (Compliments 1, Complaints numbered more than 100 but an actual count was difficult to measure)

Golden Rule customers consistently complained about the same three items: 1) price increases, 2) misrepresentations or unprofessionalism of the agent, and 3) a general wariness of the trustworthiness of the company. It was remarkable to me that so many people from different backgrounds in different parts of the county would make the same unsolicited observations. (Compliments 0, Complaints 17)

After 2003 Golden Rule Insurance appears to have significantly improved their consumer ratings so that these comments were almost entirely absent by 2007.

Fortis has the slowest application review process as compared with any other company covered by this survey. This drew a number of complaints over the year.

One OnlineAdviser user complained loudly about Fortis denying a claim and then cancelling his insurance coverage, but on our further investigation it seemed obvious to me that this man had lied on his application with regard to a serious and ongoing health situation. (Compliment and Complaint counts are not available)

Kaiser Permente drew a significant number of complaints for claims handling and customer service in the beginning of the year but seems to have significantly improved in recent months. The last complaint I received was in the early summer. (Compliments 6, Complaints 5)

Best rated provider network

Private Health Care Systems (PHCS) was consistently praised by users. We noticed that physicians and health care employees purchasing health plans for themselves almost always selected a PHCS plan and several specifically made this a high priority search request in advance when asking for help selecting a health plan.


1 HPA is now IHC Health Solutions Inc. and its most popular product isSecure short term medical insurance.

2Celtic Insurance was one of the first individual health insurance companies to adapt this online enrollment technology. Since 2003 almost all health insurance plans have evolved to use automated online enrollment.

3Since that date sample policies certificates were made available online. See thesite map for more information on sample specific policy forms available.

4Fortis is now known as Assurant Health

Status: obsolete

After 2003 we discontinued the practice of keeping tallies of OnlineAdviser user comments on specific insurance plan.

This article is available for republication in its entirety without charge after obtaining the express written permission of the author.

Pleasee-mail a request to the author that includes the name of the requestor (individual and corporate) and the intended destination of publication.

tonynovak.comThis Web site is independently owned and operated by Tony Novak operating under the trademarks “Freedom Benefits”, “OnlineAdviser” and “OnlineNavigator”. Opinions expressed are the sole responsibility of the author and do not represent the opinion of any other person, company or entity mentioned. Tony Novak is not a representative, agent, broker, producer or navigator for any securities broker dealer firm, federal or state health insurance marketplace or qualified health plan carrier and has no financial position in any stocks mentioned. Novak may act as and be compensated as an accountant, agent, adviser, writer, consultant, marketer, reviewer, endorser, producer, lead generator or referrer to the companies listed on this site or other commercial companies and non-governmental insurance exchanges. Information is from sources believed to be reliable but cannot be guaranteed. Any accounting, business or tax advice contained in this communication, including attachments and enclosures, is not intended as a thorough, in-depth analysis of specific issues or a substitute for a formal opinion, nor is it sufficient to avoid tax-related penalties.

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