Tackling Declining 2024 Star Ratings and Enhancing Member Experience with Customizable Transportation Benefit Programs

As the 2024 star ratings decline to 4.04 out of five stars, implementing an innovative and tailored transportation program can significantly boost star ratings, positioning an MA plan well ahead of competitors in 2024 and beyond.

For the very first time in the storied history of Medicare, more Americans opted for Medicare Advantage (MA) plans than the traditional Medicare program. A staggering 30 million individuals embraced this change, representing a significant 51% of the entire Medicare population, as reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Surprisingly, this unfolded against a backdrop of declining star ratings for Medicare Advantage plans. The average star rating for private Medicare plans with prescription drug coverage plummeted to 4.04 out of five stars in 2024, marking its lowest point since 2017, when it stood at a more favorable 4.14. This decline was largely related to the relaxation of COVID-era criteria and recent methodology changes impacting the 2024 Star ratings distribution—including a measure related to transitions of care and follow-up.

According to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), these Star ratings, (which have long been a vital tool for seniors to identify high-performing plans), experienced a second consecutive year of decline. Encompassing up to 40 quality measures, these ratings play a pivotal role in determining whether insurers qualify for Medicare bonuses and enable consumers to make year-round decisions when selecting top-rated plan coverage.

Supplemental benefits outside of traditional care settings not only enhance member satisfaction and patient experience—two key factors influencing STAR ratings—but can also lead to improved health outcomes for the Medicare Advantage population. While almost all MA plans offer variations of vision, dental, fitness, and hearing benefits, only 43% of MA plans have added a non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) benefit. A cutting-edge and customized transportation program can positively influence Star ratings and position an MA plan well ahead of the pack in 2024 and beyond.

Investing in a Trusted Transportation Benefit Partner

While there will always be factors beyond a plan’s control, the changes cited above provide opportunities for MA plans to refocus their efforts, assess their benefit offerings, and ensure that they are meeting the needs of their diverse member population. At SafeRide Health, these changes hit close to home, as we partner with MA health plans to administer intuitive NEMT programs.  

To design an optimal benefits package, it’s crucial for health plans to understand the diversity of and adversities faced by the MA member population—including individuals who are transferring from a Medicaid plan, high-need beneficiaries enrolled in Special Needs Plans (SNPs), those in need of chronic care, and those living in rural communities. The ideal benefits partner can provide health plans with data about their member population to inform the design of a transportation package. SafeRide’s technology platform helps health plans capture key insights to close the feedback loop about plan members’ need for rides and, ultimately, the utilization of their transportation benefit. In addition, the platform collects high-quality data, such as transportation patterns and modalities, participating facilities, and cadence. SafeRide’s customizable solutions allow health plans to tailor their benefits to the exact needs of their member population.  

Understanding why members need care, where they need to receive it, and how they prefer to get there will allow plans to offer comprehensive and tailored transportation programs that provide their members with better access to care. Additionally, MA plans that proactively address transportation barriers will be at the forefront of creating a more level playing field across the social determinants of health (SDoH) domains.  

Leveraging Technology to Better Meet Members’ Needs

Technology-enabled partnerships between MA plans and modern NEMT solutions will provide our communities with the transportation opportunities they deserve. To meet the needs of a growing and aging population, MA plans need to leave legacy NEMT broker relationships behind and move to modern transportation solutions. SafeRide offers multimodal transportation, from door-to-door wheelchair transport to rideshare booking, and makes rides available as needed, whether prescheduled or on demand. SafeRide’s proprietary algorithms ensure that members get the right ride, every time.  

Leveraging technology to power NEMT programs offers real-time data transparency, simplifies ride logistics, and enhances the overall member experience. To ensure that members have a superior ride, it’s crucial for health plans to be able to intervene in real time to prevent any potential problems. SafeRide’s real-time ride tracking provides visibility into where and how rides are going. With measures for robust tracking and monitoring, heath plans can use all the collected data to their advantage. SafeRide can detect and prioritize rides labeled “at risk” in real time, helping health plans prevent fraud, waste, and abuse while providing members with peace of mind that they will reach their destination safely.  

As health plans navigate the ever-changing MA industry, it’s important to find the right NEMT partner capable of building and maintaining a robust national transportation network to drive low grievance rates and exceptional member experience. By partnering with an intuitive technology-driven NEMT platform like SafeRide, plans can design the transportation benefit package that put the member first.

To learn how SafeRide can help Medicare Advantage plans gain a competitive advantage, watch our on-demand webinar  or  explore our platform.

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