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60% of Medicare Advantage Members Feel Little Motivation from Plans

The majority of Medicare Advantage plan members are not receiving the personalized messaging and chronic disease support they desire.

Medicare Advantage member engagement

Source: Thinkstock

By Jennifer Bresnick

- Medicare Advantage (MA) plans are not doing enough to motivate their members to improve their personal health, according to a new survey from HealthMine.

Sixty percent of members participating in the poll said that their MA plans do not offer any incentives for engaging with healthcare providers or making lifestyle improvements, leaving individuals on their own to meet their wellness goals.

All of the beneficiaries participating in the survey have at least one chronic disease.  Yet respondents feel as if their MA health plans are not taking steps to make it easier to manage their conditions.

Three-quarters stated that instead of sending personalized recommendations, their plans will offer generalized advice, such as suggesting a flu shot during the winter. 

Personalization appears to be limited to broad categories, such as age and gender, and does not extend to specific disease-related concerns.

Just fifteen percent have received messaging specific to their diagnosed chronic disease.  Thirty-five percent said that they have never received a reminder of any kind from their MA plan.

As a result of this perceived inability to reach members on an individual level, beneficiaries are not very likely to follow through with recommendations from their health plans.

Only 14 percent said they always take advantage of incentives and follow recommendations for action.  Fifty-four percent said they sometimes complete these activities, but just under a third stated that they will never take their health plan’s advice.

“The study was conducted to highlight beneficiaries' perceptions if their health plan provides incentives to manage health,” says Bryce Williams, president and CEO of HealthMine. “Because these respondents all have chronic conditions, the study indicates that some plans could improve in helping plan members better manage health outcomes and therefore cost.”

Medicare Advantage enrollment is skyrocketing as more beneficiaries enter the over-65 age bracket.  From plan year 2018 to plan year 2019, enrollment in MA plans increased by 12 percent, according to a recent report from Mark Farrah Associates.  Since 2015, MA membership has seen a 125 percent increase.

With 21 million total members, MA plans represent a large segment of the overall insurance market – and a highly lucrative opportunity for payers who can attract and retain beneficiaries.

Personalization is likely to play an important role in generating consumer loyalty, said Williams.  Tailoring communication strategies to meet the preferences of each member is an important place to start.

“Generalizing, older Medicare Advantage beneficiaries may prefer phone communication, or email, while those between the ages of 65 to 70 years might gravitate more to texting and digital communications,” he posited.

“But generalizations no longer count. The key to incentivizing people is personalized communication. Beneficiaries want to know their plans care about them and their health.”

Creating a financial rewards structure to incentivize healthy behaviors may also be effective: opportunities for users to win gift cards or receive discounts could also increase adherence to recommended activities.

MA members are already generating digital data that could be used to reliably track progress towards incentive benchmarks, a previous HealthMine survey from June of 2018 revealed.

More than three-quarters of Medicare Advantage members are using Internet of Things devices, such as blood pressure monitors, fitness wearables, blood sugar monitors, and cardiac monitors, to keep track of their personal health and chronic diseases.

But only 8 percent said their health plan can harness this data to make suggestions about chronic disease management or connect them with resources that could help improve their quality of life.

The earlier survey also emphasized the communication gap between plans and patients. 

Almost half of respondents said they rarely or never get answers to their questions.  Thirty-one percent said they don’t have access to connected care services that could reduce their spending and improve their health.

Bridging the divide between member preferences and MA plan capabilities will be essential for generating sustained engagement, equipping members with actionable tools, and, ultimately, lowering the costs of care.

MA plans that wish to succeed in an increasingly competitive environment will need to take a more proactive stance towards communicating with members how and when they desire it to ensure that beneficiaries feel motivated to complete important chronic disease management tasks.

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