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)

Kaiser Permanente Repeats as #1 Medicare Website in 2017 “Madness in March” Results

Posted by Alan Mittermaier

Congratulations to Kaiser Permanente and its Medicare plan website, Medicare.KaiserPermanente.org, on repeating as winner of the 2017 “Madness in March” competition among 147 Medicare plan websites surveyed by HealthMetrix Research Inc.  This is the sixth year since 2009 that Medicare.KaiserPermanente.org has been recognized as the overall top Medicare website.   Kaiser Permanente’s website advanced through five rounds of matchups that featured 32 top-scoring Medicare websites.  The complete “Madness in March” bracket results can be viewed at — 2017 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 13 “benchmark” and 20 “distinguished” Medicare plan websites in a February 22 PRNewswire release.  See additional details about MedicareWebWatch website certification at – www.MedicareWebWatch.com

Give Your Medicare Advantage Plan Website a Thorough Independent Annual Review

March Madness is here which means an invitation to join Alan Mittermaier for a one-hour consultation webinar highlighting the 2015 MedicareWebWatch website findings along with MedicareWebWatch certification details for your organization. Included are actionable build-out insights for how your organization’s Medicare Advantage website can become more relevant and ready to meet the growing expectations of plan members, age-ins and caregivers. The webinar also covers best practices from industry-leading websites recognized for “Excellence in Website Content, Connectivity, Design and Transparency”.

HealthMetrix Research President Alan Mittermaier has an extensive background from advising over 60 Medicare Advantage sponsors and research organizations including Mathematica Policy Research, National Council on Aging (NCOA) and Research Triangle International. Mr. Mittermaier also offers his unique perspective as a recent Medicare Advantage plan enrollee.

Each webinar will accommodate up to 20 attendees and will be recorded for your organization’s internal use. Note: The registration fee ($500) can be credited towards the 2015 MedicareWebWatch certification licensing fee.  Click here to register today!

Medicare Advantage Plan Websites Need User-Friendly Upgrades


HealthMetrix Research’s MedicareWebWatch initiative annually benchmarks Medicare Advantage plan websites for content, member connectivity, accessibility/design and privacy assurance.  The 2014 MedicareWebWatch survey findings from 142 websites confirmed many Medicare plan websites fail to maximize the relevance and readiness of their websites for their target audiences — plan members, caregivers, new member prospects.  There is considerable room for improvement especially since over 10,000 “boomers” become Medicare-eligible daily and at least 60% of all seniors are internet users (Pew Internet Project-2013).  Below are 10 recommended upgrades showing the % of Medicare plan websites where currently available.

Recommended User-friendly Upgrades

1. STAR ratings transparency  (2%)   — In addition to the CMS-required overall STAR rating, post rating summaries for all five rating categories — 1) Staying healthy, 2) Managing chronic conditions, 3) Member experience, 4) Member complaints, 5) Customer service satisfaction.

2. Website accessibility for disabled users  (4% fully accessible)  Fix website pages, links, PDF documents according to Section 508 accessibility standards that otherwise cannot be read or accessed by disabled visitors using screen readers or other assistive devices.

3. Member health/wellness records  (46%)  Include access to personal health/wellness records via secured member portal.

4. Member account support  (66%)  Include access to member account information for customer service requests, verification of claims, editing contact information via secured member portal.

5. External content links  (75%)  Post links for external content websites that offer health alerts, personal improvement guidance, personal finance, senior benefits eligibility information.

6. Providers accepting or not accepting new patients  (76%)  Include current status in provider directory listings for primary care physicians.

7. Adjustable text-sizing  (80%)  Add this feature for vision-impaired users to easily adjust screen appearance.

8. Website privacy assurance  (80%)  Add website privacy assurance policy that addresses website security, use of cookies or tracking analytics, email confidentiality.

9. Document/topic search  (82%)  Add this feature as a navigation option in addition to the site map.

10. Reporting Medicare fraud/abuse  (84%)  Add local plan contact information or the federal Medicare fraud/abuse website — StopMedicareFraud — and toll-free phone — 800-447-8477  or TTY: 800-377-4950.


HealthMetrix Research Selects Outstanding Medicare Advantage Websites for 2014 MedicareWebWatch Certification

(February 10, 2014) – HealthMetrix Research Inc., an independent research firm, today announced the selection of 14 Medicare Advantage plan websites for MedicareWebWatch certification.  MedicareWebWatch certification recognizes excellence in Medicare plan website content, member connectivity, design and privacy assurance.  Six ”benchmark” websites and 8 ”distinguished” websites were selected from 137 Medicare Advantage websites after comprehensive site reviews.  In addition, six websites are recognized for achieving highest ”accessibility” scores.  These sites have enabled the latest user-friendly technology to allow disabled visitors to fully access website content. Read More

See complete list of 2014 “benchmark” and “distinguished” websites at MedicareWebWatch.com

2013 MedicareWebWatch Website Certification National Announcement

HealthMetrix Research will announce the 2013 MedicareWebWatch certified websites on Tuesday February 19.  A total of 15 Medicare plan websites will be recognized for “Excellence in Content, Connectivity, Design and Privacy Assurance”.  An additional 5 websites will be recognized for achieving highest “accessibility” scores.

MedicareWebWatch Digital Marketing Webinars – June/July

HealthMetrix Research is finalizing details for its line-up of MedicareWebWatch Digital Marketing Webinars during June and July. These webinars will feature leading experts from Medicare plans and the digital media industry who will provide valuable insights for maximizing Medicare plan website relevance and readiness.  The preliminary topic line-up includes:

  • Boosting online enrollment … minimizing commissions and paperwork
  • Search engine optimization … achieving and maintaining page 1 organic search results
  • Social media networking … leveraging brand-building and member loyalty with 24/7 touches

Complete details will be announced here and on www.MedicareWebWatch.com the week of May 28.