The analysis measures member satisfaction with Medicare Advantage (MA) plans based on coverage and benefits, provider choice, cost, customer service, information and communication, and billing and payment. The result: Information and communication is a weakness for member satisfaction, which drives a general lack of engagement among consumers and increases the likelihood of health plan members switching plans.

The study, now in its sixth year, was conducted January through March 2020 by J.D. Power, a global leader in consumer insights, advisory services and data and analytics. It is based on the responses of 3,314 members of MA plans across the United States.

Here are five findings from the report:

Effective communication drives satisfaction and trust: A key driver of overall customer satisfaction and consumer perception of trust is clear, helpful, proactive communication. Overall member satisfaction increases 209 points (on a 1,000-point scale) when MA plans meet three key performance indicators related to information and communication: making sure members fully understand their out-of-pocket costs; providing health education; and delivering useful reminders for preventive services.

MA plans miss the mark on communication: Only 15 percent of MA plans deliver all three information and communication performance indicators. This gap has been amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic as consumers are 3.3 times more likely to receive a helpful communication from their bank than from their health plan, according to additional data from current J.D. Power financial industry studies.

Digital plays key role in plan selection: More than 40 percent of MA members use digital means when gathering information regarding their health coverage. In fact, information gathering in general is significantly more likely among MA members (87 percent) than among those commercially insured (82 percent), and MA members are just as likely as auto insurance customers to have an online account with an insurer, based on additional data from current J.D. Power auto insurance studies.

There is a growing interest in telehealth: Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, just 5 percent of MA members had used telehealth. Based on additional J.D. Power research conducted since the beginning of the pandemic, 20 percent of Medicare plan members say they are interested in receiving information about telehealth.

Three MA plans emerge at top of member satisfaction: Highmark ranks highest with a score of 830, followed by Kaiser Foundation Health Plan (829) and Humana (806).

“Medicare Advantage plans are unique in the health insurance industry because they are highly consumer-driven,” said James Beem, managing director of global healthcare intelligence at J.D. Power, in the recent study announcement. “Members can shop and switch plans much more freely than with other types of health insurance coverage, and they tend to take a proactive role in seeking information about the best options for their unique healthcare needs. Against this backdrop, Medicare Advantage plans have a huge opportunity to increase member satisfaction, trust, and loyalty by providing them with more frequent and helpful information. Yet, few plans manage to get the communication formula right—a fact that has been amplified by COVID-19.”