Brand name insurance isn’t always best

By BenefitsPro

By Kathryn Mayer

Consumers who think they score big by buying a health plan with a popular name don’t always win.

So finds new analysis from HealthPocket, who examined government star ratings and enrollee opinions on the performance of Medicare Advantage plans.

HealthPocket—a website that compares and ranks health plans—found that nonprofit, and lesser known, brands were much higher ranked than popular brands.

For example, out of five possible stars, 85 percent of popular AARP brand—and its endorsed carrier, UnitedHealth—fell into the 3-3.5 star range, with 8.7 percent falling into the 4 star range and no plans with a 4.5-5 star rating.

By comparison, 31 percent of non-AARP plans achieved a score of 4 or higher.

The highest performing competitors across contracts were nonprofit health plans, including Kaiser; Gunderson Lutheran Health System; Baystate Health; and HealthPartners, Inc. Certain for-profit plans also had higher average contract scores than AARP, including Humana and Aetna.

“Having health plan options can save money and improve quality of care, but it can also make decisions tough for consumers,” Steve Zaleznick, executive director for consumer strategy and development at HealthPocket said in a statement. “While going with a well-known brand can bring peace of mind, consumers also have tools they can use to help weigh costs and quality objectively, including for plans with less familiar names.”

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