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I have questions

I have questions

YARMOUTH, Maine – One of the most interesting takeaways from the HME News Business Summit in Charlotte, N.C., Oct. 22-24, was just how much commercial insurers care about patient satisfaction.  

Brad Heath, an executive vice president with AdaptHealth, was part of a panel at the Summit on disruptive partnerships with payers. AdaptHealth, along with Rotech Healthcare, as we all know, has a contract with Humana to provide certain home medical equipment services to its Medicare Advantage HMO members.  

Heath said that one of the things that Humana looks at most frequently is patient satisfaction and, specifically, complaint response.  

This surprised me, as the HME industry has been so focused on showing that the equipment, services and care they provide result in better care and lower costs. Providers seem to be more apt to talk about the low hospital readmission rates or high adherence rates of their patients than the high satisfaction rates of their patients.  

But in this new world where commercial insurers are aggressively courting Medicare beneficiaries for Medicare Advantage plans, patient satisfaction might trump all.  

It starts to make sense, when you think about the TV commercials for Medicare Advantage plans. First, there is the quantity of these commercials: Nearly 9 out of 10 insurance-related commercials focused on Medicare Advantage plans last fall, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Then there is the content: They often highlight extra benefits like dental and vision care – even meal benefits. Fifty five percent of Medicare Advantage plans offered meal benefits in 2021, according to Kaiser.  

All of this to say, commercial insurers make big promises to get beneficiaries to switch from traditional Medicare to Medicare Advantage plans, and once they’re switched, they want to keep them there. In 2021, Medicare Advantage plans reported gross margins averaging $1,730 per enrollee, at least double the margins reported by insurers in the individual/non-group market ($745), the fully insured group/employer market ($689), and the Medicaid managed care market ($768), according to Kaiser.  

Of course, none of this is to say better care doesn’t matter, and one can certainly argue that providing better care also results in high patient satisfaction. That’s something the HME industry needs to continue focusing on.  

But the conversations around patient satisfaction at the Summit were a real wake-up call for me and, hopefully, attendees.  

So, my questions for providers: Who at your company is thinking about patient satisfaction? How are you collecting data on patient satisfaction? Have you incorporated surveys into your care process? What kind of systems do you have in place to resolve patient complaints? And how are you sharing data this data with payers?


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