For a third consecutive year, Kaiser Permanente has ranked highest in Medicare Advantage member satisfaction in a J.D. Power 2017 Medicare Advantage Study.
Highmark ranked second and Humana third.
WellCare was first in significantly improving the member experience from the previous year, according to the study released Thursday.
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Despite the importance of Medicare Advantage's ability to appeal to the growing senior citizen segment, few health plans are proactively marketing their MA offerings to consumers, the study said.
Just 11 percent of members age 60-plus said they had received communication from their health plan to move from current coverage to a Medicare Advantage plan.
Those consumers who did receive a notice of the availability of MA, reported higher overall satisfaction with their health plan.
For a third consecutive year, Kaiser Permanente ranked highest in Medicare Advantage member satisfaction. The study has been ongoing for three years.
Kaiser outperformed all other plans across five of the six factors that comprise the overall satisfaction index.
Coverage and benefits account for 25 percent of the score; customer service, 19 percent; claims processing, 15 percent; cost, 14 percent; provider choice, 14 percent; and information and communication, 12 percent.
Overall satisfaction with Medicare Advantage plans is higher than the J.D. Power 2016 Medicare Advantage Study.
The 2017 Medicare Advantage Study is based on the responses of 3,442 MA members.
It found that most plans are not doing the best job that they can to successfully address provider integration and access to care for their members.
Ensuring members generally see their doctor as a trusted partner in their medical care is the most important factor driving the highest levels of overall satisfaction with Medicare Advantage plans, the study said.
Somewhat surprisingly, it is not the soft skills that engender this feeling of trust, but rather assistance navigating the myriad of healthcare providers and managing associated costs that matter most, it said.
However, just 34 percent of Medicare Advantage plan members indicated their plans helped them to coordinate care among doctors and other healthcare providers.
Industry-wide, just 54 percent of Medicare Advantage plan members said they "completely" understand how their plan works. When it comes to the cost for prescription drugs, fewer people understood how this works compared to last year.
The 2017 Medicare Advantage Study is based on the responses of 3,442 members of Medicare Advantage plans across the United States.
Enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans has been consistently growing. The proportion of the population age 65-plus in the U.S. is projected to increase from 14 to 21 percent over the next two decades.
"Medicare Advantage plans represent a significant growth opportunity, but many health plans are not maximizing that potential," said Valerie Monet, senior director of the Insurance Practice at J.D. Power. "Our data shows that the ability to deliver consistently strong customer satisfaction in the Medicare Advantage market is becoming a key differentiator for the leaders in this space and that satisfaction is achieved through a series of highly choreographed best practices."