The average quality rating for Medicare Advantage plans is on the rise, according to a new analysis by HealthPocket in Sunnyvale, Calif., which compares and ranks health plans.
Among all 2014 Medicare Advantage plans, 35 percent achieved a rating of four to 4.5 stars out of five stars, up from 26 percent in 2013, the study found.
Medicare's star program rates plans for managing and maintaining health as well as for customer service. Just 2.5 percent of plans achieved the top score of five stars, about the same as last year.
"This study brings some good news for 14.5 million Medicare Advantage consumers," Steve Zaleznick, HealthPocket.com's executive director for consumer strategy and development, said in a press statement. "We are seeing more Medicare Advantage plans ranking higher on the quality scale. Evidence shows that higher quality scores increase enrollment in plans, and trends indicate that consumers are watching for quality as well as cost, which is a new and very positive development."
HealthPocket also examined the scores of UnitedHealthcare and Humana, the top two insurance carriers in terms of market share to see how their quality performance compared with the industry. Four and 4.5-star plans make up 19 percent of United's plans and 36 percent of Humana's. United had 40 percent of its plans receive three stars or lower (only one plan was lower at 2.5), and Humana had 14 percent at three stars and none lower. Neither UnitedHealthcare nor Humana have any five-star plans.
The HealthPocket analysis reviewed data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services dated Oct. 21, 2013. The plan data were not adjusted for market share. Plans that had no data, not enough information or were listed by CMS as too new to measure were not considered in the research.
The annual open enrollment period for Medicare began Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 7. During open enrollment, Medicare beneficiaries can review their current health and prescription plans and make any changes for the following year.