The prevailing mood surrounding health insurers seems to have mellowed somewhat following uncertainty in rollout of the Affordable Care Act and a more customer-centric approach taken by some plans, according to the J.D. Power 2015 Member Health Plan Study.

Now in its ninth year, the study measures satisfaction among members of 134 health plans in 18 regions throughout the United States. It examines six key factors: coverage and benefits; provider choice; information and communication; claims processing; cost; and customer service. Satisfaction is calculated on a 1,000-point scale.

Overall member satisfaction averages 679, which is a 10 point improvement from 2014. The increase in satisfaction is driven by improved performance across all factors, most notably in information and communication (+17 points), which is primarily a result of efforts among many of the health plans to retool their approach by refining messaging, adjusting message frequency, and upgrading their website. Satisfaction in the customer service factor has increased by 11 points, driven partially by matching communication methods to member preferences, such as mobile and text. Cost satisfaction rose by 13 points as fewer members experienced an increase in their monthly premium, as well as a decline in overall out-of-pocket expenses for individuals and families.

According to the study, overall satisfaction is significantly higher among the 19 percent of members who strongly agree their health plan is a trusted partner in managing their health. Among members who say they “strongly agree” that their health plan is a trusted partner, satisfaction increases by 201 points.

“Health plans have come a long way since last year as the focus has shifted toward better serving member needs and building trust. However, there is still a lot of work to do,” said Rick Johnson, senior director of the healthcare practice at J.D. Power. “Health plans need to take a more customer-centric approach and keep their members engaged through regular communications about programs and services available through their plan. When members perceive their plan as a trusted health partner, there is a positive impact on loyalty and advocacy.”

A regionally detailed breakdown of the survey is available here.

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