National health insurers in 2008 paid physician claims 5.3% faster than during the previous year, and denied 9% fewer claims, according to an annual survey of insurers.

Humana Inc. was the top-rated national payer as ranked on overall performance. Other national insurers in the top eight, in order, were Aetna, Cigna, UnitedHealth Group, Medicare B, WellPoint, CHAMPUS/TRICARE and Coventry Health Care.

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island was the fastest payer of physician claims for the third consecutive year and had the lowest percentage of denials for the second consecutive year. Medicaid agencies, particularly New York's program, again dominated the ranks of the worst performers.

Physician software and outsourced billing services vendor athenahealth Inc., Watertown, Mass., conducts the annual study based on data it accumulates from its clients. The company's 2009 PayerView Rankings includes data on 172 national, regional and government payers in 40 states. Data in the study totals 41 million medical charge lines in 2008 from 18,000 providers who bill for their services.

Survey results are available at

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