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14 Medicare Advantage Plans Earn 5 Stars

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, October 30, 2013

Among the significant perks of being a five-star plan is the ability of payers to enroll members throughout the year rather than only during the seven-week Medicare open enrollment period.

Finally there is some positive news about health plans coming out of Washington.

The federal shutdown earlier this month and ongoing problems with the healthcare.gov have overshadowed the annual announcement by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services of the star quality ratings for Medicare Advantage health plans.

Now in its sixth year, the ratings program created by CMS to monitor plan quality and performance for beneficiaries. The program was greeted with a collective yawn among health plans until the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act sweetened the pot with bonus payments.

Since 2012, health plans with at least a three-star rating have shared billions of dollars in bonus payments. With that kind of money on the line it comes as no surprise that health plans keep a watchful eye on those star ratings, which often play a strategic role in the development and growth of their Medicare Advantage book of business.

During a recent conference call with stock analysts, Mark Bertolini, chairman, CEO and president of Aetna Inc., stated that a "key component of Aetna's Medicare strategy includes the substantial investment we have made to improve our star ratings." He noted that based on the new 2014 ratings data, Aetna has over 60% of its Medicare Advantage members in 4- and 4.5-star plans.

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