Medicare beneficiaries with high health insurance literacy are more likely to enroll in Medicare Advantage, and they may land in a plan that works better for them, according to a study in JAMA Network Open. The findings may help MA plans boost enrollment and meet member needs.1
The 2015-2016 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey on 6,627 beneficiaries also found:1
- Most beneficiaries do not use Medicare’s official information sources
- 30% of beneficiaries have difficulty understanding Medicare
- 57% of beneficiaries did not review or compare coverage options annually
- About half of beneficiaries did not know about MA during open enrollment.
- Health insurance literacy was lowest among people with low socioeconomic status.1
Those who review their coverage annually are more likely to enroll in MA — 38%, versus 27% for those who do not.2 Meanwhile, beneficiaries with high health insurance literacy who enroll in MA are more likely to choose plans with 4- or 4.5-star ratings than beneficiaries who have lower health insurance literacy.2 Those with higher health literacy are also more likely to enroll in plans with monthly premiums of $1 to $50 and in plans with a maximum out-of-pocket limit of less than $4,000.
What MA plans can do
MA plans may be able to help improve enrollment decisions by making their outreach clearer and more user friendly.
For example, phone interactions can be improved by having agents use simple language and avoiding complex terminology. Agents should speak slowly, clearly and respectfully and should ask open-ended questions to determine patient comprehension of plan information.3 It can also be helpful to have callers repeat information in their own words.
In the digital space, plans should take advantage of artificial intelligence to support customer service, suggest relevant products, and help members understand and follow programs.4 Graphics and pictures can be easier to understand than long blocks of text.3
Whether over the phone or online, plans should provide simple pricing information that specifies the total cost of common services.4 Yes and no answers can make it easier for people to understand exactly what the plan will cover.5 Members can also benefit from decision support tools that personalize comparisons and recommendations.1
All communications should be available in the member’s preferred language and format, and at an appropriate reading level.6 It should also be accessible to members with impaired vision or hearing, or other disabilities.6
By making sure outreach materials and ongoing communications are clear, accessible and user-friendly, MA plans can both increase their member rolls and ensure they are meeting the needs of those members.
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- Park, S., Langellier, B., Meyers, D. Association of health insurance literacy with enrollment in traditional Medicare, Medicare Advantage, and plan characteristics within Medicare Advantage. JAMA Network Open. Feb. 3, 2022. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2788633
- Bailey, V. High health insurance literacy tied to Medicare Advantage enrollment. HealthPayerIntelligence. Feb. 9, 2022. https://healthpayerintelligence.com/news/high-health-insurance-literacy-tied-to-medicare-advantage-enrollment
- Federico, F. 8 ways to improve health literacy. Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Oct. 15, 2014. http://www.ihi.org/communities/blogs/8-ways-to-improve-health-literacy
- Safavi, K., Stephan, J-P., McCaghy, L., et al. US health plans can save billions by helping patients navigate the system. Harvard Business Review. Nov. 6, 2018. https://hbr.org/2018/11/u-s-health-plans-can-save-billions-by-helping-patients-navigate-the-system
- Lair, T. Health insurers have the power to improve health – let’s do it. MedCity News. Oct. 12, 2021. https://medcitynews.com/2021/10/health-insurers-have-the-power-to-improve-health-lets-do-it/
- Addressing health literacy to improve member health, outcomes. HealthPayerIntelligence. Oct. 25, 2021. https://healthpayerintelligence.com/news/addressing-health-literacy-to-improve-member-health-outcomes