What Prevents MA Plans from Offering 5-Star Websites? (Part 1)

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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)

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