For the fifth year in a row, seniors say one particular Medicare Advantage health insurance plan is the best.
That plan is the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, according to J.D. Power’s 2019 Medicare Advantage Study, which is the fifth edition of the annual study.
In other words, the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan has ranked No. 1 for as long as J.D. Power has been doing this study, which is based on a poll of Medicare Advantage plan members. For the 2019 study, more than 3,200 such members from across the U.S. were polled.
J.D. Power’s latest Medicare Advantage Study ranks plans based on an overall satisfaction score on a 1,000-point scale.
The score itself is based on six factors. Listed in order of importance, they are:
- Coverage and benefits
- Provider choice
- Customer service
- Information and communication
- Billing and payment
The best — and the rest — of Medicare Advantage plans
The average overall satisfaction score among Medicare Advantage plans in J.D. Power’s study this year is 795 — a 1-point improvement from last year.
Five of those plans earned above-average overall satisfaction scores. They are:
- Kaiser Foundation Health Plan: Overall satisfaction score of 833 out of 1,000 points
- Highmark: 818
- Humana: 803
- Aetna: 801
- Centene: 799
The plans that earned below-average overall satisfaction scores are:
- Anthem: 788
- UnitedHealthcare: 784
- Cigna-HealthSpring: 781
- WellCare: 773
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota: 769
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan: 762
Medicare Advantage versus Original Medicare
Medicare Advantage plans are one of two main types of Medicare health insurance plans. The other type is known as Original Medicare.
Original Medicare is offered directly by the federal government’s Medicare program, whereas Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurers that have been approved by the government’s Medicare program.
Medicare Advantage plans must cover the same services that Original Medicare covers but can cover other expenses as well. (We detail some of the services that Original Medicare does not cover in “5 Health Care Costs That Medicare Does Not Cover.”)
So, from one Medicare Advantage plan to the next, coverage and costs can differ widely.
J.D. Power notes that Medicare Advantage plans are increasingly popular, with plan membership growing nearly 10% between 2018 and 2019.
“That’s 1.6 million beneficiaries being added to a relatively small number of health plans in a very short time frame,” says James Beem, managing director for Global Healthcare Intelligence at J.D. Power
As a whole, HMO Medicare Advantage plans are rated higher for overall customer satisfaction than PPO ones, J.D. Power found. The average overall customer satisfaction score is 804 among HMO plans and 794 among PPO plans this year.
The gap between these two types of Medicare Advantage plans has narrowed, though. Two years ago, the average overall satisfaction score was 810 among HMO plans and 790 among PPO plans.
To learn more about Medicare coverage, check out “Seniors, Don’t Overlook These 6 Medicare ‘Freebies.'”
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