An effort under the ACA to encourage the health insurance industry to provide higher quality benefits to seniors is rewarding Medicare beneficiaries and the bottom lines of health plans that are achieving high government-backed ratings.
More than half of seniors enrolled in so-called Medicare Advantage plans are now enrolled in plans with ratings of four stars or more on a five-star scale, a ranking system created under the health law to guide seniors to cost-effective and higher quality benefits.
Plans are rated on such measures like cutting call waiting times as well as how well they encourage preventive care such as getting regular blood tests for diabetes. A rating of four is considered above average and a rating of five is excellent. The highest rankings give health plans a bonus payment and the ability of the insurers to tout their improvement. There are now 53 percent of Medicare Advantage enrollees in plans with four or more stars compared to just 24 percent in 2011, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Some plans are performing better than others with Kaiser Permanente among those best known for its high scores and four- and five-star ratings. A five-star rating allows the insurers to market year-round rather than just during the fall open enrollment period. But other plans are beginning to tout their four-star or better ratings to Wall Street, saying it has helped them enroll more seniors and take customers away from rivals.