Consumer Engagement

Plans Should Strive for ‘Seamless’ Digital Engagement

Health insurers have ramped up their use of digital tools to improve customer satisfaction, but still have more work to do — particularly as utilization returns to normal two years after the pandemic’s start. Customer satisfaction is lagging after several years of improving scores, and digital tools are disappointing some enrollees.

J.D. Power’s 2022 U.S. Commercial Member Health Plan Study identified call center customer support and digital tools as “key areas in need of improvement,” the advisory firm said May 26. “Health plan members expect a personalized, hands-on experience when dealing with customer support and they expect a seamless digital experience when engaging online. Health plans have some work to do to get the formulas right,” said Christopher Lis, managing director, global healthcare intelligence at J.D. Power.


News Briefs: Consulting Firm Sold

Health care consulting firm Avalere Health has been sold to Fishawack Health, by previous owner Inovalon Health. In a letter to clients disclosing the deal, Avalere President Elizabeth Carpenter said that Avalere would “retain our logo and brand,” and “your client teams will remain the same and there will be no change to your current business relationship with Avalere. Everyone you know and love from Avalere is joining Fishawack, including all of our practice leadership.”

A new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that little information is available about the role that short-term health plans played during the COVID-19 pandemic — and that state regulators are not watching the industry closely. Short-term health plans are not required to meet all the standard benefits mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Per the report, “GAO found that limited and inconsistent data hinder understanding of the role short-term plans played during the COVID-19 pandemic for those who lost [employer-sponsored insurance], such as whether they were used by consumers as temporary coverage or as a longer-term alternative to ACA-compliant plans….State officials in the five states with plan sales were not able to report on the role of short-term plans for consumers, as none of them collected data on the duration of short-term plan coverage.”


State Medicaid Agencies Grapple With Moving PHE End Date

With the COVID-19 public health emergency presumably continuing into October, state Medicaid agencies and their partners theoretically have more time to communicate with enrollees and prepare for the inevitable resumption of eligibility redeterminations once the PHE ends. But ongoing uncertainty over the PHE’s end date presents a host of challenges for states as they handle unprecedented numbers of Medicaid enrollees and attempt to conduct other program work unrelated to redeterminations, according to officials from California, Iowa and North Carolina who spoke during a May 24 webinar hosted by the National Association of Medicaid Directors (NAMD).

Throughout the PHE, which was declared in January 2020 and first renewed that April, states have received a temporary 6.2 percentage-point increase in their Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) in exchange for maintaining continuous enrollment of nearly all Medicaid recipients. Once the PHE ends, states have 12 months to initiate eligibility reverifications for everyone enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP and 14 months overall to complete redetermination efforts.

News Briefs: Consumer Satisfaction With Plans Hits Roadblocks

While health insurers have made gains in consumer satisfaction in recent years, that progress stalled over the last year, according to a new report from J.D. Power & Associates. “Overall satisfaction has increased…during the past five years, but there is no change in 2022 from 2021, due in part to declines in satisfaction in customer service and dissatisfaction with coverage options and desired network providers,” a J.D. Power press release said. The report said that the health plans that members call “responsive” and “innovative” received the best satisfaction scores. Members also critiqued long hold times at call centers and have found decreasing satisfaction from electronic contact tools like texting and mobile apps. The highest scores for health plans, which were separated by region, were awarded to Kaiser Permanente, Humana Inc., Anthem, Inc., Geisinger Health Plan and several Blue Cross Blue Shield affiliates.


Segmented, Personalized Outreach Drives MAO Retention Efforts

Medicare consumers are facing an overwhelming variety of resources and plan choices and are showing signs of increased movement during the Open Enrollment Period (OEP). As a result, effective member engagement during the OEP and throughout the year is becoming increasingly important and can be achieved through using data to segment membership and deliver targeted, personalized messaging to ensure that a member is in the right plan from the start, industry experts advised during the 13th Annual Medicare Market Innovations Forum, hosted by Strategic Solutions Network, LLC (SSN).

After the Medicare Annual Election Period (AEP) that typically runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, the three-month Medicare OEP starts on Jan. 1 and allows beneficiaries who selected a Medicare Advantage plan to make a onetime coverage change. This year was the fourth OEP since it was reinstated by the Trump administration after a hiatus, and seniors’ utilization of the renewed opportunity is growing.

WellCare Kept PDP Enrollees Via ‘Conversational’ Outreach Pilot

A pilot with Drips’ trademarked “conversational texting” platform has helped WellCare significantly lower the percentage of Prescription Drug Plan policies that were being terminated due to nonpayment, according to a case study presented at the 13th Annual Medicare Market Innovations Forum, held May 11 and 12 in Phoenix.

Since WellCare was acquired by Centene Corp. in January 2020, the PDP team has been focused on “optimizing operational execution” and ensuring a positive member experience, said WellCare Senior Director of Prescription Drug Plans Talia Duany, who presented the case study with Drips. “When you’ve got 4.1 million members in an industry that’s shrinking — this year we saw the biggest [decline] in available PDP options, everyone’s moving into [Medicare Advantage] — having a robust member retention strategy” is critical.

Insurers Are Helping Patients, Providers Deal With Medical Debt

Although fewer Americans are dealing with medical-related financial hardships since the coronavirus pandemic began, the percentage is still high and could rise further as Medicaid redeterminations resume, major Affordable Care Act subsidy expansions expire and inflation eats away at people’s incomes and savings. To that end, payers are implementing ways to ease the burden of high out-of-pocket costs for patients and to help providers improve their collections, even as one expert calls the services a “Band-Aid attempt to cover the widening healthcare affordability gap.”

An Urban Institute report published on May 11 found that 16.8% of adults from 18 to 64 years old had medical debt in April 2021, down from 23.6% in March 2019. The Urban Institute cited several potential reasons for the decline, including a reduction in health care utilization, pandemic relief measures and growth in Medicaid enrollment.


Similar Adherence Is Seen in Digital, Telephonic Offerings

To serve patients wanting the ability to refill specialty prescriptions online rather than telephoning a pharmacy, AllianceRx Walgreens Prime launched its digital service offering in late 2019. A recent study of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) revealed similar rates of adherence — measured by proportion of days covered — between people managing their prescriptions via online tools vs. telephonic engagement.

In addition to offering self-serve refill requests, the company “wanted to ensure patients using the digital clinical assessment received the same level of quality clinical care required for a specialty patient compared with patients supported by the traditional telephonic process,” says Sabeen Hasni, R.Ph., director of pharmacy quality at AllianceRx Walgreens Prime and a lead researcher of the study. After patients log in and select specialty drugs to refill, they answer operational and clinical questions specific to their condition, including their response to therapy, on-hand supply of medication and side effects. Algorithms can identify those patients who need additional support from pharmacists, and patients can request to speak with a pharmacist at any time. In addition, providers are notified when their patients trigger an intervention protocol, and pharmacists can contact them to discuss next steps in care.

With AEP Switching Low, MAOs Must Monitor Member Experience

Medicare beneficiaries have more plan choices than ever before, in addition to a dizzying array of supplemental benefits and increased PPO options, but plan switching has stalled, according to a new study from Deft Research. That leaves Medicare Advantage plans to consider whether low switching is largely due to members feeling satisfied with their current coverage or overwhelmed with the sheer amount of information being presented to them, observed industry experts during a recent webinar hosted by Rebellis Group LLC. As a result, members’ experience during the Annual Election Period may warrant a closer look as plans think about their strategy for the next AEP.

In its 2022 Medicare Shopping and Switching Study, Deft observed an overall switching rate of 11% during the most recent AEP. That’s compared with 12% seen in 2021 and 23% in 2015, reported George Dippel, executive vice president with Deft, during the March 10 webinar, “With more choices than ever, how will your Medicare Advantage plan stand out in 2023?” The annual survey featured responses from 3,389 Medicare enrollees, including 1,846 seniors who were enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan in 2021 and 1,183 seniors with Medicare Supplemental (MedSupp) coverage. The remaining 360 respondents had Original Medicare only (OMO).

Slim Marketing Guidelines Stress Importance of Reviewing Regs

After nearly four years, CMS has released an updated version of the Medicare Communications and Marketing Guidelines (MCMG) that serve to interpret and provide guidance on the marketing and communication rules for Medicare Advantage and Part D sponsors. Compliance experts tell AIS Health, a division of MMIT, that the long-awaited document is light on additional guidance and clarification except for a few topics, and plans are encouraged to review all related regulations to stay compliant with marketing rules.

Aside from severely whittling down the document — the 2022 MCMG is now a mere 51 pages, down from 84 pages when last released as a full document for the 2019 plan year and 124 pages in the 2018 version — CMS has noticeably consolidated and reorganized sections, moving some subsections into other areas or removing guidance that was codified. The agency reminded plans that the document is to “be used in conjunction with the regulatory requirements to aid plans in understanding and complying with the regulations.”