Posted by Alan Mittermaier
May 14, 2018
While only a handful of 2018 Medicare Advantage plans can boast 5-Star CMS overall performance ratings (total of 11 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 2018 MedicareWebWatch project findings breakout 9 “Benchmark” or 5-Star websites plus another 34 “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 68 year old boomer, I have a first-hand perspective both from navigating all 160 Medicare plan websites recently and from my daily use of an array of websites for personal purposes — news, banking, travel, purchases. Below are three advance content features that every Medicare plan website should provide for enhancing the user engagement experience — with examples.
- New member orientation — Only 29% (46 of 160) 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.
- Health risk/personal health assessment — Surprisingly, only 32% (51 of 160) of websites provide a health risk or personal health assessment feature either in an online or downloadable format. Both an initial assessment upon enrollment and annual re-assessments represent a valuable measure for ensuring healthy outcomes that also impact CMS performance ratings. Check out Security Health Plan (via WebMD), Soundpath Health, Capital District Physicians’ Health Plan (CDPHP).
- Paperless member document delivery — Just short of 22% (35 of 160) of sites offer members the ‘green’ option to opt-in for paperless document delivery. This addresses the ‘annoyance factor’ among members who become frustrated with print documents — especially the provider and formulary directories — filling their mailboxes and adding to household clutter. Best examples for offering paperless options are BCBS Michigan, HealthPartners, SCAN.
(This is the second in a series highlighting the 2018 MedicareWebWatch project findings)
By Alan Mittermaier
Congratulations Tufts Health Plan and its Medicare Preferred website upon setting the transparency standard that every Medicare Advantage plan website would be well-served to follow. Tufts Medicare Preferred is the only website (among 160 websites surveyed) to voluntarily disclose its 2018 Star Ratings for each of the health plan rating categories (5) and the drug plan rating categories (4) that comprise the overall ratings for both (see below). The additional disclosure increases the likelihood that plan members and prospects will make informed choices when weighing enrollment choices.
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Health Plan Star Ratings
For plans covering health services, the overall score for quality of those services covers 32 different topics in 5 categories:
Staying Healthy (screenings, tests, and vaccines): ★★★★★
Includes how often members got various screening tests, vaccines, and other check-ups that help them stay healthy.
Managing Chronic (long-term) Conditions: ★★★★★
Includes how often members with different conditions received certain tests and treatments to help them manage their conditions.
Member Experience with Health Plan: ★★★★★
Includes how members rated their satisfaction with the plan.
Member Complaints, Problems Getting Services, and Improvements in the Health Plan’s Performance: ★★★★★
Includes how often Medicare found problems with the plan and how often members filed complaints against the plan and chose to leave the plan. Includes how much the plan’s performance has improved (if at all) over the last two years.
Health Plan Customer Service: ★★★★★
Includes how well the plan handles calls from members, makes decisions about member appeals for health coverage, and handles new enrollment requests in a timely way.
Prescription Drug Plan Star Ratings
For plans covering drug services, the overall score for quality of those services covers 15 different topics in 4 categories:
Drug Plan Customer Service: ★★★★
Includes how well the plan handles calls from members, makes decisions about member appeals for drug coverage, and handles new enrollment requests in a timely way.
Member Complaints, Problems Getting Services and Improvements in the Drug Plan’s Performance: ★★★★★
Includes how often Medicare found problems with the plan and how often members filed complaints against the plan and choose to leave the plan. Includes how much the plan’s performance has improved (if at all) over the last two years.
Member Experience with the Drug Plan: ★★★★★
Includes how members rated their satisfaction with the plan.
Drug Safety and Accuracy of Drug Pricing: ★★★★
Includes how well the plan provides accurate pricing information for the Medicare website. Includes information on how often members with certain medical conditions get prescription drugs that are considered safer and clinically recommended for their condition. Includes information on whether members are taking certain medications as directed.
For plans covering both medical and drug services, the overall score for quality of those services covers all of the 9 categories listed above.
Where Do the Ratings Come From?
Medicare rates all health and prescription drug plans every year by assigning a rating of 1 to 5 stars to each plan. Star ratings can be used to quickly identify how well a plan works with their members. The rating is based on quality and performance in a number of categories including:
- Member Satisfaction with the Plan
How well the members rate the quality of the plan.
- Customer Service
Our ability to provide customer service that helps members get answers to their questions quickly.
- Getting Screening and Checkups to Stay Healthy
How well we help members get preventive screenings and check- ups in order to find medical conditions early when they are easier to treat.
- Managing Chronic Conditions
How well we help members manage chronic conditions such as diabetes by making sure they get the help they need to stay healthy.
- Number of Complaints
The number of complaints we receive from members about their plan. A good rating in this category means we received a low number of complaints.
*Medicare evaluates plans based on a 5-Star rating system. Star Ratings are calculated each year and may change from one year to the next. For more information on plan ratings, go to www.medicare.gov.
What organization administers the MedicareWebWatch Project certification program?
HealthMetrix Research Inc., an independent managed care research organization, developed and administers the MedicareWebWatch Project voluntary certification program.
What is the scope of website features that the MedicareWebWatch Project certification program addresses?
The certification program addresses four website categories covering 50 features:
- Plan-specific and external content (13 features)
- Member connectivity and solutions (22 features)
- Design and navigation (6 features)
- Transparency and advanced content (9 features)
Upon successful certification, what resources and deliverables are available to each Medicare plan?
The following licensed resources and deliverables are available upon successful certification.
- 2018 MedicareWebWatch certification seal for display in print and electronic media
- 2018 MedicareWebWatch certification status page link
- 2018 MedicareWebWatch customized news release
- 2019 website build-out recommendations
Are there fees associated with the MedicareWebWatch Project certification program and resources?
Yes, HealthMetrix Research has established the fee schedule below for the certification review and licensing program.
- 2018 certification annual licensing fee: $2,400.00
(Valid through January 31, 2019)
- Consultation webinar for both certified and non-certified websites: $750.00
(The $750.00 consultation webinar fee will be credited to the annual certification fee)
Do Medicare plans have the opportunity to modify their websites based on the results of the initial certification and request a follow-up review?
Yes, HealthMetrix Research provides the initial certification review results and will conduct a follow-up review within 60 days, upon request.
Are Section 508 accessibility standards validated to ensure website compliance?
Yes. The MedicareWebWatch Project tests Section 508 accessibility compliance for each website.
What about the CMS Guidelines (Chapter 100) for websites?
HealthMetrix Research assumes that Medicare plan websites meet the CMS website content and design criteria, although the CMS criteria are less comprehensive in scope than for MedicareWebWatch Project certification.
If a plan does not meet all the MedicareWebWatch Project criteria, does HealthMetrix Research provide recommendations to help meet the criteria?
What information has HealthMetrix Research provided to CMS regarding the MedicareWebWatch Project certification program?
HealthMetrix Research president Alan Mittermaier presented an overview about the MedicareWebWatch Project certification program on October 8, 2009 to the CMS Marketing Product Consistency Team (PCT). Attendees included staff from the CMS Division of Policy, Analysis & Planning along with marketing reviewers from all 10 CMS regional offices. There are no compliance issues related to displaying and/or distributing the MedicareWebWatch certification images and news release on plan websites or print media.
Does HealthMetrix Research receive external funding or sponsorship for conducting the MedicareWebWatch Project certification program?
Posted by Alan Mittermaier
While only a handful of 2018 Medicare Advantage plans can boast 5-Star CMS overall performance ratings (total of 11 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 2018 MedicareWebWatch Project findings breakout 9 “Benchmark” or 5-Star websites plus another 34 “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 68 year old boomer, I have a first-hand perspective both from navigating all 160 Medicare plan websites recently and from my daily use of an array of websites for personal purposes — news, banking, travel, health information, shopping. For starters, here are 5 simple bolt-on features that every Medicare plan website should provide for enhancing the user engagement experience — with examples.
- Site Map — Over 20% (33 of 160) 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.
- Search Box — Over 20% (33 of 160) 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?
- Security Certificate Display — Only 21% (33 of 160) 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 Horizon BCBS or Kaiser Permanente sites and scroll to the bottom of the home page.
- Medicare Fraud and Abuse Alert — Almost unbelievable that 13% (20 of 160) 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 Providence Health Assurance or HAP for posting scam alerts.
- Website Feedback — Only 32% (51 of 160) 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 2018 MedicareWebWatch Project findings)
Posted by Alan Mittermaier
Congratulations to Kaiser Permanente and its Medicare Advantage plan website, Medicare.KaiserPermanente.org, on repeating as winner of the 2018 “Madness in March” competition among 160 Medicare plan websites surveyed by HealthMetrix Research Inc. Since 2009, this is the seventh year that Kaiser Permanente’s website has been recognized as the overall top Medicare Advantage website. Kaiser Permanente’s website advanced through five rounds of matchups that featured 32 top-scoring Medicare Advantage websites. Other semifinalists included Aetna, MVP Health Care and Priority Health. The complete “Madness in March” bracket results can be viewed at — 2018 MWW Madness bracket FINAL
The annual independent MedicareWebWatch Project tracked 50 common and advanced features across four categories — content, member connectivity, design, transparency. HealthMetrix Research recognized a total of 9 “benchmark” and 34 “distinguished” Medicare plan websites in a February 15 PRNewswire release. See additional details about MedicareWebWatch website certification at – www.MedicareWebWatch.com
Columbus, OH (February 15, 2018) – HealthMetrix Research Inc., an independent research firm, announces the selection of 43 Medicare Advantage plan websites for MedicareWebWatch national certification. MedicareWebWatch national certification recognizes excellence in Medicare plan website content, member connectivity, design and transparency. Nine “benchmark” websites and 34 “distinguished” websites were selected from 160 Medicare Advantage websites after comprehensive site reviews.
According to HealthMetrix Research Inc. president Alan Mittermaier, “These best-of-breed websites demonstrate their growing value as an asset for Medicare Advantage plans to achieve enrollment and customer satisfaction goals. Providing a high-value, positive website experience that engages plan members and caregivers will also deliver outstanding return on investment in the long-term. HealthMetrix Research is pleased to recognize these organizations for their forward-looking commitment to website relevance and readiness.”
MedicareWebWatch national certification is based on HealthMetrix Research’s mapping methodology that weighs 50 website features related to: plan-specific content; external content resources; member connectivity; design and navigation; transparency and privacy disclosure. Certification details are available at www.MedicareWebWatch.com. HealthMetrix Research Inc. neither recommends nor endorses specific Medicare plans or products.
Trusted external content represents an overlooked asset that is seldom incorporated on Medicare Advantage plan websites. Frankly, it puzzles me as both a Medicare Advantage plan member and as a website consultant familiar with all 150+ MA plan websites that such content is unavailable to plan members and caregivers. Too many MA websites simply display the minimum external content or links required by CMS Medicare Marketing Guidelines, e.g., Medicare.gov. Many websites also include SSA.gov but little more.
Below are two trusted external content resources that should be available on every MA plan website for enhancing user engagement. Best of all — the content is totally free!