Report: MA plans struggling to boost member engagement, communication

Medicare, Medicare Advantage, seniors

Medicare, Medicare Advantage, seniors

Though satisfaction with Medicare Advantage plans is high, fewer members actively managed their health over the past year, indicating a lack of engagement and communication, according to a new report.

Released last week by consumer insights and advisory services firm J.D. Power, the report includes survey responses from 3,359 members of MA plans across the country. The survey was conducted from January through March.

About 55% of MA plan members actively managed their care in the past year, the report shows. This represents a nine-percentage-point decline from 2019.

The two most common ways in which plan members actively managed their health were checking whether a treatment or service is covered and asking their physician or pharmacist for a generic, instead of a brand-name, drug.

The report ranks insurers in accordance with MA plan member satisfaction, which is based on six factors: coverage and benefits; provider choice; cost; customer service; information and communication; and billing and payment.

Kaiser Foundation Health Plan ranked highest in overall MA plan satisfaction, with a score of 846 on a 1,000-point scale. Highmark came in a close second with 834, while Cigna HealthSpring and Humana ranked third with 822 each. These four insurers scored well above the industry average of 806.

Information and communication was the lowest-performing factor evaluated in the study, but it has an important impact on overall satisfaction. Satisfaction scores jumped by 54 when members engaged with their plan to ask a question or solve a problem than when they had no engagement at all.

“Medicare Advantage plans have begun to position themselves as community health organizations, realizing that the key to better outcomes is more active engagement with members to encourage preventive health and smart utilization of provider resources,” said James Beem, managing director of global healthcare intelligence at J.D. Power, in a news release. “However, despite recognizing the importance of member engagement, many plans are struggling when it comes to information and communication.”

Patient portals could be one way to drive up member engagement and communication — and these are growing in popularity, according to the report. Around 78% of MA plan members are registered for their payer’s member portal, up 4 percentage points from 2020.

Further, two-thirds of members have logged in to their health plan’s portal.

The new report comes about two months after J.D. Power released the 2021 U.S. Commercial Member Health Plan Study, which shows that overall member satisfaction improved 10 points year over year, up from a 6-point increase in 2020 and a 1-point increase in 2019. The spike in satisfaction was largely driven by improvement in scores related to cost, information and communication and website factors.

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