Brand Name Health Insurance Isn't Always Better

Jul 16, 2013, 10:47 ET from HealthPocket

AARP's Popular Medicare Advantage Plans Fall Short on Quality Measures

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new analysis from HealthPocket examines government star ratings and enrollee opinions on the performance of Medicare Advantage plans and finds a popular brand, AARP and its endorsed carrier, UnitedHealth, absent from among the high ratings tier. None of the AARP plans ranked in the excellent star rating range, nor did any plan exceed the industry average of 86 percent of members ranking it highly in a survey of plan enrollees.

SUNNYVALE, Calif., July 16, 2013 Medicare Advantage plans serve 14.4 million Americans and have 28 percent of the Medicare-eligible population market share. These plans are growing in popularity compared to traditional Medicare, and consumers who choose Medicare Advantage coverage have a variety of plan options to compare before making a final decision.  Consumers base their choices on multiple factors, including premium cost and finding their physician in a plan network. The Medicare plan quality star rating system is one key factor in helping enrollees differentiate plans, and reflects scores for treatment, preventive care, and customer satisfaction.

Out of five possible stars, 85 percent of AARP's plans fell into the 3.0-3.5 range, with 8.7 percent  in the 4.0 range and no plans achieving an excellent 4.5 or 5.0 score. In comparison, 31 percent of non-AARP plans achieved a score of 4.0 or higher. The highest performing competitors across contracts were nonprofit health plans, including Kaiser; Gunderson Lutheran Health System; Baystate Health; and HealthPartners, Inc. Certain for-profit plans also had higher average contract scores than AARP, including Humana and Aetna.

"Having health plan options can save money and improve quality of care, but it can also make decisions tough for consumers," said Steve Zaleznick, Executive Director for Consumer Strategy and Development at HealthPocket. "While going with a well-known brand can bring peace of mind, consumers also have tools they can use to help weigh costs and quality objectively, including for plans with less familiar names."

This HealthPocket Infostat is part of a series using health plan data to produce unbiased market analysis and guidance for consumers navigating America's changing health insurance environment. Sub-ratings for each Medicare Advantage plan are available on HealthPocket's plan detail page.

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SOURCE HealthPocket