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Highmark, Kaiser, Humana rank highest for satisfaction in study of Medicare Advantage plans

MA plan members want more information on telehealth, according to the J.D. Power U.S. Medicare Advantage study.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

Most Medicare Advantage plans need to step up effective communication with plan members, according to the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Medicare Advantage Study.

Despite having a highly motivated customer base that is interested in searching for information about healthcare options, Medicare Advantage plans continue to miss the mark when it comes to effective communication, even though this attribute has a significant positive effect on member satisfaction.

Overall member satisfaction increases 209 points, on a 1,000-point scale, when plans meet three key performance indicators related to information and communication: making sure members fully understand their out-of-pocket costs, providing health education and delivering useful reminders for preventive services.

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Just 15% of Medicare Advantage plans deliver all three information and communication performance indicators, the study said.

Highmark ranked the highest in Medicare Advantage plan overall satisfaction, with a score of 830. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan (with 829) ranked second and Humana (with 806) ranked third.

The communications gap has been amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic, since consumers are 3.3 times more likely to receive helpful communication from their bank than from their health plan, based on data from current J.D. Power financial industry studies.

The pandemic has increased member interest in telehealth.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, just 5% of Medicare Advantage members had used telehealth. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 20% of Medicare plan members say they are interested in receiving information about telehealth.

Another key finding is that digital plays a key role in plan selection.

Despite Medicare Advantage plan members being older, on average, than traditional commercial health plan members, more than 40% of Medicare Advantage members use digital means when gathering information regarding their health coverage.

In fact, information gathering in general is significantly more likely among Medicare Advantage members (87%) than among those commercially insured (82%), and Medicare Advantage members are just as likely as auto insurance customers to have an online account with an insurer.

WHY THIS MATTERS

Lack of communication drives a general lack of engagement, which increases the likelihood of health plan members switching plans, according to the study.

Members can shop and switch plans much more freely than with other types of health insurance coverage, according to James Beem, managing director of global healthcare intelligence at J.D. Power. 

THE LARGER TREND

The study, now in its sixth year, measures member satisfaction with Medicare Advantage plans based on six factors in order of importance: coverage and benefits, provider choice, cost, customer service, information and communication, and billing and payment.

The 2020 Medicare Advantage Study is based on the responses of 3,314 members of Medicare Advantage plans across the United States from January through March.

ON THE RECORD

"Medicare Advantage plans are unique in the health insurance industry because they are highly consumer-driven," said James Beem, managing director of global healthcare intelligence at J.D. Power. "Against this backdrop, Medicare Advantage plans have a huge opportunity to increase member satisfaction, trust and loyalty by providing them with more frequent and helpful information. Yet, few plans manage to get the communication formula right – a fact that has been amplified by COVID-19."

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: susan.morse@himssmedia.com