J.D. Power: In crowded MA market, insurers should focus on trust to stand out

As the Medicare Advantage (MA) market continues to grow, insurers should be thinking about building trust with members to rise to the top of the pack, according to a new report from J.D. Power.

The consumer insights and analysis firm found that overall member satisfaction with MA plans is quite high, landing at a score of 652 on its 1,000-point scale. That is "squarely" in the middle of J.D. Power's good-to-great range in its index, the report said.

Payers that earned higher scores on trust in turn garnered greater consumer loyalty, the study found. The analysis found that members who were likely to renew their plans had far higher trust in their coverage than those who were unlikely to renew.

"At the end of the day, it's in the health plan's interest to get to know the patient as well as possible and to figure out how to be a partner in terms of helping the member achieve their healthcare goals and objectives," said Christopher Lis, Ph.D., managing director for global healthcare intelligence at J.D. Power, in an interview with Fierce Healthcare.

J.D. Power polled 5,887 MA enrollees in five U.S. markets—California, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas—earlier this year for its annual look at consumers' attitudes toward the MA program.

Alongside building overall trust, insurers have a significant opportunity to improve problem resolution among members, according to the report. Members who said they were likely to renew reported greater satisfaction with the avenues available to them to resolve issues.

Lis said that when members reach out to their health plans for help, these communications often fail to be timely and effective.

"The wow factor plays out when you reach out and your issue was resolved at that first point of contact," he said. "That's a great experience that doesn't always happen."

While boosting member trust should be a key focus, the study also identified two major pain points for payers to consider as they build a strategy around MA. Just 31% of those surveyed said they felt their plan made it simple to seek out care, and 34% said they used at least two of the digital tools offered by their coverage.

In tandem, members who found it easy to secure care or who took advantage of digital offerings had higher satisfaction scores, according to the analysis.

"While at the national level, overall, we're doing well, there's still an opportunity for plans to improve there," Lis said.