Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period (or AEP, as it’s commonly known) takes place at the same time every year: October 15 to December 7. Beneficiaries have the opportunity to switch their coverage, with changes going into effect the following January 1.
Lesson One: Get A Head Start
The biggest reason a customer makes a change during the AEP is a lack of understanding of their current plan. So, our first job as agents is to make sure our customers comprehend what they have and what they need.
This is one of the most significant gaps in our industry: the ability to help current customers fully understand their benefits. When clients receive their Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) in September, we can save them time and money by conducting a thorough review of their plan.
All coverage details will be included in a beneficiary’s ANOC. It’s an opportunity for the agent to reach out and ensure their client knows the coverage they have and what’s changing. This type of retention practice can preserve your book of business without making huge adjustments during the AEP.
Lesson Two: Federal Regulations Can Change Everything
Just announced at the end of 2022 and taking effect January 1, 2023, insurers cannot air any TV ads for Medicare Advantage (MA) plans without first getting approval from federal regulators. These new ad approval guidelines by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have meant fewer false or misleading third-party TV commercials throughout this year’s AEP.
As a result, we’ve seen more carrier-focused commercials and airtime, offsetting the typical deluge of marketing by third-party organizations. This is meant to help eliminate confusion among Medicare beneficiaries, but it also opens the space for more clear communications between our customers and carriers.
Lesson Three: Medicare Advantage Is On The Rise
Agents have seen a notable increase in Medicare Advantage enrollments during this AEP, something that’s expected to continue into the foreseeable future. In 2022, nearly 30 million Americans—more than 46% of Medicare beneficiaries—had MA plans. After this AEP and the upcoming Open Enrollment Period (January 1 to March 31), CMS projects MA enrollment to grow to almost 32 million people.
Medicare Advantage plans are reducing out-of-pocket costs and increasing ancillary benefits. People with MA plans have enjoyed richer benefits that often help with other aspects of their life, like fitness memberships or grocery and utility bills. These benefits can elevate the standard health and drug plan to fulfill other needs that can help clients battle the rising costs of inflation and really improve their quality of life.
Lesson Four: Focus On Servicing Your Book Of Business
When the AEP comes to a close in mid-December, many beneficiaries won’t be able to make any further changes without special exceptions. Those with MA plans will have a few additional weeks to make their choice during the Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period—January 1 to March 31.
As our agency looks toward the OEP, we anticipate continued persistency and a lower volume of plan switching. The new CMS regulations prohibit the approval of new TV commercials in January, which could affect general awareness of the OEP. Agencies budgeting for TV ads during the OEP should likely position themselves for success with a different lead strategy.
We used to operate with the goal of signing up as many new customers as possible. Now, as we shift to 2023, we’re putting in the work to qualify our clients to best serve their needs and retain them at a higher level of satisfaction year-round, leading to higher policy persistence.