Medicare Advantage plans 'not maximizing' their potential for member satisfaction, J.D. Power says

patient satisfaction ratings
J.D. Power’s 2017 Medicare Advantage Study found that overall satisfaction with MA plans came in at an average of 799 on a 1,000-point scale.

Though the Medicare Advantage sector is full of growth opportunities, health plans are falling short on key opportunities to gain new members and improve customer satisfaction, according to a new survey.

J.D. Power’s 2017 Medicare Advantage Study found that overall satisfaction with MA plans came in at an average of 799 on a 1,000-point scale—9 points higher than last year’s average. Yet only one plan, WellCare, significantly improved its score.

The other findings of the survey, now in its third year, offer some hints about the reasons behind that relatively flat progress. For example, only 34% of MA members, on average, indicated their health plans were effectively able to help them coordinate care among their various providers. Provider integration also remains a “friction point” for most members.

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MA health plans could also improve how they communicate with potential and current members, J.D. Power notes. Only 11% of members who are 60 years or older indicated they received any premarketing contact from their health plan—or communications about moving from their current coverage to an MA plan.

Further, just 54% of MA members say they “completely” understand how their plan works, and fewer understand how prescription drug costs work than last year.

Enrollment in MA plans has grown steadily since 2004, when it was 5.3 million, or 13% of the population of Medicare beneficiaries, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In 2017, 33% of Medicare beneficiaries are in MA plans, for a total of 19 million enrollees.

In sum, “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.

Some plans, however, have consistently performed well. Kaiser Permanente ranked the highest in member satisfaction for the third straight year with a score of 852 and outperformed all the other plans across five of the six factors that make up J.D. Power’s satisfaction index. Highmark came in second with a score of 803, followed by Humana, which scored 794.

J.D. Power’s release of its Medicare Advantage survey findings comes on the heels of its first annual report on Medicaid managed care. That study, which did not rank plans, found that overall satisfaction with Medicaid managed care plans was higher than commercial health plan member satisfaction.