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Editor’s Note: This post is an adaptation of an AIS Health RADAR on Medicare Advantage article in which Renee — our resident Medicare Guru — was included as a featured OEP expert.

Medicare’s AEP is the lifeblood of a health plan for the Over 65 market — just three short months each year to drive acquisitions and retain or even gain market share.

Well, now thanks to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, health plans have a whole new marketing timeframe from January – March 31. It’s not a do-over, but the next best thing!

OEP is ideal to focus on two key areas: Retention and careful, thoughtful Acquisition.

Most clients should take an equal two-prong approach in terms of budgeting to both reinforce retention and to boost acquisition, with strategies in each category varying.

When the OEP was last in place, DMW’s own historical data indicates health plans allocated incremental spending — about 24% over and above their AEP budget — to retain and grow membership in Q1. And it worked: yielding added applications equaling about 30% of their AEP new member acquisition.

OEP can be an efficient spend. But under the 2019 government limitations, Medicare plans aren’t able to actively solicit switchers. So don’t anticipate getting the same numbers typically associated with AEP — however, this new marketing opportunity can go a long way to building your membership.

Four types of customers likely to take advantage of the newly reinstated OEP:

  1. Members who stayed with their plan, but didn’t realize it had changed until they used it;
  2. AEP switchers who didn’t fully understand the benefits of their new plan and were surprised when they went to use it;
  3. Members whose situation changed and their plan is no longer a good fit; and
  4. Consumers who wanted a change during AEP and just procrastinated.

To retain current and new members, Medicare plans should take multiple steps, including:

  • Send membership cards out as early as possible to stem churn (a step to keep in mind this year, to implement even during the next AEP).
  • Provide an easy-to-understand (“no jargon”) guide to key benefits, particularly new ones, during the Annual Notice of Change or post-ANOC. Many members don’t read through the document and it helps plans reinforce their relationships with enrollees.
  • Train your member services team well. OEP allows members to switch plans within the same contract. Listening for opportunities will be critical to minimize switchers, and guide members compliantly.
  • Make new members feel welcome with a phone call. They just made a big decision, let them know they made the right one. This sounds like a big task, but DMW has seen evidence that if you can engage with your members through a personal, helpful call, it helps to retain them.
  • Customize your message for new members. Individuals who previously had only Original Medicare may not understand the ins and outs of a Medicare Advantage plan.

5-star Medicare plans can run marketing throughout OEP.

Year-round marketing continues to apply to 5-star plans during OEP. These plans should market to prospects as they’ve been doing, and perhaps even more heavily during OEP to gain market share. 5-star plans should also continue brand marketing beyond the AEP — with digital and TV efforts to keep them “top of mind” in the marketplace.

If budget dollars are tight, DMW recommends our MA clients cost-effectively modify existing brand/direct TV spots that ran during the AEP so those commercials can run compliantly in OEP.

Plans should rev up their New-to-Medicare efforts — including late retirees.

How? Here are a few examples:

  1. Send a customized message through email and direct mail to New-to-Medicare prospects who received an enrollment kit or downloaded one but haven’t enrolled;
  2. Plans could also retarget prospective enrollees via Facebook and display advertising — reaching out to individuals who visited their website but didn’t enroll; and
  3. Tailoring a specific message to non-converted leads. People who didn’t request/receive an enrollment kit may still be in the market for a Medicare plan — they’re worth adding to your target audience mix.

Don’t find yourself saying, “Oops, we missed out on OEP.”

It’s not too late to take advantage of the new Open Enrollment Period, and make it a 2019 success for your Medicare plan. DMW is always just a click or call away to help you strategize, plan, and execute for this OEP — or for the next AEP in the fall.