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Satisfaction With Medicare Advantage Plans Remains Stable, but Opportunities Remain

Laura Joszt
Enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans has grown sharply to cover one-third of all Medicare beneficiaries. During that growth, customer satisfaction with these plans remains stable, according to a new report from J.D. Power.
Medicare Advantage (MA) plans have grown steadily in enrollment and now cover one-third of all Medicare beneficiaries. While that kind of sharp growth in enrollment can put a strain on member satisfaction, a new report from J.D. Power has revealed that customer satisfaction with MA plans remains relatively stable.

The J.D. Power 2018 Medicare Advantage Study found that out of a 1000-point scale, satisfaction with plans is 794. While that number is down 5 points from 2017, enrollment levels in these plans increased in 48 out of 50 states.

For the fourth year in a row, Kaiser Permanente had the highest MA member satisfaction (score of 841), followed by Highmark (807), and Cigna HealthSpring (798).

There are 6 factors that the study uses to measure satisfaction: coverage and benefits; customer service; claims processing; cost; provider choice; and information and communication.

MA plans are doing well with care coordination. According to the report, dual-eligible members have particularly been happy with care coordination services, with 61% strongly agreeing that their health plan is a trusted partner, and 72% saying they “definitely will” recommend their plan. In addition, 77% definitely will renew their plan.

“Some notable opportunities remain that—if addressed successfully—could have a significant effect on satisfaction,” Valerie Money, senior director of the insurance practice at J.D. Power, said in a statement. “Among those, efforts to help beneficiaries better manage and reduce out-of-pocket spending associated with their care and coordinating care between providers are some of the most powerful drivers of satisfaction, yet few plans fully deliver on that capability.”

Just more than half (54%) of MA members say their plan works to keep their out-of-pocket costs low. J.D. Power identified actively helping members to manage their healthcare spending as one way to further drive satisfaction of MA plans.

Another area for improvement: information and communication. Satisfaction in this area declined 16 points from 2017, and it is the lowest-scoring factor overall in the health plan experience, according to J.D. Power.

A March 2018 report from the Better Medicare Alliance (BMA) had also highlighted how there needs to be better communication and education on MA. The report recommended that materials be updated to improve readability, offer visual illustrations, and target outreach to provide more personalized support.

BMA had previously also found that most seniors do not understand the difference between MA and other Medicare options.

“As the number of seniors aging into Medicare continues to grow, we hope to work with the administration and other stakeholders to better ensure the Medicare-eligible population has the tools and information that will enable them make the best decisions for themselves. There has not been a concerted effort to educate seniors solely on Medicare Advantage – perhaps now is the time to consider this effort,” said Allyson Y. Schwartz, BMA president and CEO.

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