2018 Medicare Marketing Guidelines Impose Minimal New Website Compliance Hurdles

Posted by Alan Mittermaier

The delayed posting of the CY 2018 Medicare Marketing Guidelines on July 20th reveals only modest changes pertaining to Medicare Advantage/Part D website compliance.  Areas involving new and existing compliance clarification include the following:

60.4 – Formulary and Formulary Change Notice Requirements  (pp. 27-28)
60.4.3 – Changes to Printed and Posted Formularies  (p.28)

Comment:  Both of the above clarifications favor document eDelivery opt-in for plan members.


100.4 – Online Formulary, Utilization Management (UM), and Notice Requirements (p.71)

Comment:  Previous online notification provisions become “must” requirements.


100.7 – Third-Party Websites (pp.73-74)


Comment:  Includes new guidelines specifically for third-party websites defined as sites not owned by Plan/Part D sponsors, but by companies with whom Plan/Part D sponsors have contracts for the purpose of selling or promoting Medicare products.


Contact HealthMetrix Research president Alan Mittermaier for additional guidance related to 2018 website compliance and MedicareWebWatch evidence-based build-out strategies.

Why Do Medicare Advantage Plan Websites Grow Stale and Boring?

Posted by Alan Mittermaier

June 5, 2017

As a Medicare Advantage plan member and 67 year old boomer, I have first-hand perspective both from navigating all 147 Medicare plan websites recently and from my daily use of an array of websites for personal purposes — news, banking, travel, hobbies, purchases.  From such perspective, I can attest there are many more mediocre plan websites than 5-star websites.  Too many websites grow stale (even boring) and offer little good reason for plan members or caregivers to bookmark them for frequent visits.

For starters, here are tips to avoid the curse of the stale Medicare plan website.

  1. Think fresh content — The social media boom has upended how all internet users, including boomers, communicate both in terms of speed and frequency.  We go on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and similar social media platforms for fresh content.  Why should Medicare plan websites limit their appeal with predominantly static content?  Refreshing content and informing website visitors about dates for upcoming new content will increase bookmark loyalty and website stickiness.  Relying on various social media platforms for providing fresh content is well and good, however, don’t overlook the member retention value of keeping website content fresh as well.
  2. Go for transparency — Virtually every Medicare Advantage website short-changes its plan members, caregivers and prospects on transparency.  The lack of transparency is never more evident than in the presentation of CMS Star ratings.  Posting the minimum overall Star ratings proscribed by the Medicare Marketing Guidelines is of limited value to well-informed beneficiaries without supporting details.  The lone standout for full Star rating transparency is Tufts Health Plan that posts the sub-category performance Star ratings for its health plan (5 sub-categories) and drug plan (4 sub-categories).  Other areas lacking in transparency are the posting of drug formulary changes and Medicare national coverage determinations (NCDs).
  3. Member portals matter — Nearly 75% of all Medicare plan websites offer a member-only portal feature, yet fewer than 50% of those member portals go beyond the basic options — e.g., member account details, billing status, change of contact information.  Engaging plan members and caregivers should be the “holy grail” for every Medicare plan website.  Offer members the capability to view their health performance — e.g., test results, wellness activity participation — against their personal goals.  Provide member-only access to health education videos, online health quizzes and interviews with healthcare professionals.  Feature recommended mobile apps and similar resources that support healthy choices and lifestyles.

(This is the fourth in a series highlighting the 2017 MedicareWebWatch project findings)

“2018 Medicare Advantage Website Build Out Strategies” — June 13 GoToMeeting Invitation

Join HealthMetrix Research president Alan Mittermaier for this 45-minute GoToMeeting on June 13 11:00 ET highlighting the 2017 MedicareWebWatch Project  2018 website build out strategies to enhance user engagement.  There is no fee, however, this GoToMeeting is limited to 25 registered participants.  Simply complete and submit the information below for the GoToMeeting confirmation and sign-on instructions.

 

 

What Prevents Medicare Advantage Plans from Offering 5-Star Websites? [Part 3]

Posted by Alan Mittermaier

May 11, 2017

While only a handful of 2017 Medicare Advantage plans can boast 5-Star CMS overall performance ratings (total of 14 by my count), every plan is capable of building a 5-Star website for their key target audiences — plan members, caregivers, prospects.  Yet, after mapping Medicare plan websites annually since 2009 for the MedicareWebWatch project, it is still disappointing to observe the low engagement experience among so many websites.

The new 2017 MedicareWebWatch project findings breakout 13 “Benchmark” or 5-Star websites plus another 20 “Distinguished” websites.  These highly-rated websites are  not exclusively among the largest Medicare Advantage players.  Many mid-size plan websites are among the highest rated as well.  The common thread among these “Benchmark” and  “Distinguished” websites is their commitment to elevating the user engagement experience.

As a Medicare Advantage plan member and 67 year old boomer, I have a first-hand perspective both from navigating all 147 Medicare plan websites recently and from my daily use of an array of websites for personal purposes — news, banking, travel, purchases.  Below are two advance content features that every Medicare plan website should provide for enhancing the user engagement experience — with examples.

  1. New member orientation — Only 25% (36 of 147) of sites provide content or links to new member orientation materials or advice for new members.  Fallon Health and Presbyterian Health Plan offer the best examples.  Special mention to Priority Health for its “Medicare for Dummies” downloadable publication for both new members and prospects.  Providing new member orientation and/or new member advice on websites is an essential reinforcement strategy for maximizing long-term member retention
  2. Medicare reminders/health alerts — Just short of 35% (49 of 147) of sites offer Medicare reminders and/or health alerts.  Actually, excluding Medicare national coverage determination (NCDs) postings, there are zero websites offering Medicare reminders.  The primary source for Medicare alerts is the little-known Medicare blog maintained by Medicare.gov.  Go visit this resource and you will  likely wonder why it hasn’t always been linked to your plan’s website and social media platforms.   Best example for offering FDA drug safety alerts is Security Health Plan.  Best example for CDC health safety alerts is Kaiser Permanente.

(This is the third in a series highlighting the 2017 MedicareWebWatch project findings)

“Best Website Content & Feature Picks for User Engagement” — May 9 GoToMeeting Invitation

Join HealthMetrix Research president Alan Mittermaier for this 45-minute GoToMeeting on May 9 1:00ET highlighting the 2017 MedicareWebWatch Project best picks for user engagement across selected website content and features.  There is no fee, however, this GoToMeeting is limited to 25 registered participants.  Simply complete and submit the information below for the GoToMeeting confirmation and sign-on instructions.

What Prevents Medicare Advantage Plans from Offering 5-Star Websites? [Part 2]

Posted by Alan Mittermaier

April 24, 2017

While only a handful of 2017 Medicare Advantage plans can boast 5-Star CMS overall performance ratings (total of 14 by my count), every plan is capable of building a 5-Star website for their key target audiences — plan members, caregivers, prospects.  Yet, after mapping Medicare plan websites annually since 2009 for the MedicareWebWatch project, it is still disappointing to observe the low engagement experience among so many websites.

The new 2017 MedicareWebWatch project findings breakout 13 “Benchmark” or 5-Star websites plus another 20 “Distinguished” websites.  These highly-rated websites are  not exclusively among the largest Medicare Advantage players.  Many mid-size plan websites are among the highest rated as well.  The common thread among these “Benchmark” and  “Distinguished” websites is their commitment to elevating the user engagement experience.

As a Medicare Advantage plan member and 67 year old boomer, I have a first-hand perspective both from navigating all 147 Medicare plan websites recently and from my daily use of an array of websites for personal purposes — news, banking, travel, purchases.  Below are 2 simple bolt-on content features that every Medicare plan website should provide for enhancing the user engagement experience — with examples.

  1. Medical topic and drug information — Only 46% (67 of 147) of sites provide content or links to trusted resources for users seeking information on medical topics or drugs.  Pew internet research has consistently reported that among adult internet users, searching for medical information is one of the highest reported activities in terms of time spent .  CommunityCare and  Peoples Health (via StayWell) provide the best examples.  By far the easiest external content link setup is the free MedLine Plus-Senior Health (National Library of Medicine).
  2. Medicare national coverage determinations — Just short of 29% (42 of 147) of sites provide details related to CMS national coverage determinations (NCDs) for new diagnostic, therapeutic, treatment services.  Interestingly, a super-majority of plans are non-compliant with informing members when CMS issues such mid-year determinations — see 2017 Medicare Marketing Guidelines (p. 47).  Among compliant plans, check CDPHP and Rocky Mountain Health Plan.  NCD updates and details are available at CMS.gov .

(This is the second in a series highlighting the 2017 MedicareWebWatch project findings)

What Prevents Medicare Advantage Plans from Offering 5-Star Websites? [Part 1]

Posted by Alan Mittermaier

While only a handful of 2017 Medicare Advantage plans can boast 5-Star CMS overall performance ratings (total of 14 by my count), every plan is capable of building a 5-Star website for their key target audiences — plan members, caregivers, prospects.  Yet, after mapping Medicare plan websites annually since 2009 for the MedicareWebWatch project, it is still disappointing to observe the low engagement experience among so many websites.

The new 2017 MedicareWebWatch project findings breakout 13 “Benchmark” or 5-Star websites plus another 20 “Distinguished” websites.  These highly-rated websites are  not exclusively among the largest Medicare Advantage players.  Many mid-size plan websites are among the highest rated as well.  The common thread among these “Benchmark” and  “Distinguished” websites is their commitment to elevating the user engagement experience.

As a Medicare Advantage plan member and 67 year old boomer, I have a first-hand perspective both from navigating all 147 Medicare plan websites recently and from my daily use of an array of websites for personal purposes — news, banking, travel, purchases.  For starters, here are 5 simple bolt-on features that every Medicare plan website should provide for enhancing the user engagement experience — with examples.

  1. Site Map — Over 20% (31 of 147) of sites fail to provide a site map in either a drop-down format or a dedicated page.  This is comparable to publishing a book without a table of contents.  Aetna and  PrimeTime Health Plan provide the best examples.  No excuses for making website visitors  guess the location of content they wish to view.
  2. Search Box — Just short of 20% (27 of 147) of sites do not bother to provide a topic search box for either site-only search or Google internet search.  The search box feature is comparable to the index in a book.  Examples are numerous so I randomly picked CDPHP as a sure winner.  Again, why leave visitors guessing where to locate content?
  3. Security Certificate Display — Only 22% (33 of 147) of sites bother to display their security certification anywhere.  Yes, visitors may be aware of being on a secured site if they recognize the URL address with https://.  Even though few Medicare plan sites handle payment transactions, visitors still appreciate the assurance that they are accessing a secured site.  For examples, visit HealthSun or Kaiser Permanente sites and scroll to the bottom of the home page.
  4. Medicare Fraud and Abuse Alert  — Almost unbelievable that 13% (19 of 147) of sites do not provide basic information on reporting Medicare fraud or abuse.  This is one of the most common scams targeting Medicare beneficiaries and involves simple messaging to keep older adults aware.  Many good examples but try Excellus as one format and MVP for posting scam alerts.
  5. Website Feedback — Only 30% (45 of 147) of sites invite or encourage visitor feedback about their website experience.  Foresee, Opinion Lab, Survey Monkey  are the most common proprietary pop-up surveys but a simple email click option is the easiest way to allow visitors to provide kudos or criticism that can verify the user experience.   Check out the Opinion Lab option at BCBS Michigan.

(This is the first in a series highlighting the 2017 MedicareWebWatch project findings)