There are a lot of things that happen behind the scenes leading up to AEP. Here is a brief overview of those activities:
January 1st – March 31st – MAPD members can make one change in this time (OEP.)
January – June – Carriers design and submit their plans and revisions for next year to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for review and approval.
July – September – America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) start to release fraud, waste and abuse & Medicare training. This is required annually for agents who want to offer Medicare Part C or D plans. Carriers are prepping and releasing their own certification programs, which are also required for agents should they want to offer that carrier’s products.
October 1st – October 14th – Carriers release their next year plans to the public. Medicare beneficiaries can review the plans but cannot enroll yet using AEP.
October 15th – December 7th – AEP: Medicare beneficiaries can enroll into plans.
December 8th – Agents take a deep breath, and then get ready to do it all over again! Some areas may be Service Reduction Areas (SAR), which will extend their enrollment abilities.
AGENT PREP FOR AEP
While AEP does not officially start until October 15th, agent prep for AEP is an all year event.
With only 54 days, including weekends and holidays, there is little time to plan or strategize during AEP. This should be done prior to AEP, so all 54 days can be maximized for success.
Here are some tips and strategies for agents to consider, modify, and adapt to their agency for a successful AEP:
Throughout the year, agents should compile a list of prospects to call. This can include unsold prospects from previous AEPs and during the year. It is key to get their permission (and document that permission) to contact them during the next AEP to review their options.
The most successful agents go into AEP with 100+ people to contact and set appointments with. Not everyone will still want to have an appointment, but going into AEP with a list rather than scrambling to find prospects will give you a great head start.
A simple Excel spreadsheet will work to keep track of who you need to call. This way you have all their names in one place. However, using a CRM is a far more effective way to track and organize your clients and prospects.
It is difficult to predict which plans will be best prior to October, as many carriers keep their plans a closely guarded secret to non-contracted agents.
If you have a select block of business that you do not want to change plans, it is important you contact them and let them know. Remember:
“Your clients are another agent’s prospects.”
Make sure your clients stay clients after AEP. Frequent contact with your book of business throughout the year is vital when it comes to keeping them.
Stay on their current plan (after 10/1):
It is suggested to send clients a form letter stating their current plan is still available and they do not have to take any action or re-enroll for the following year.
NOTE: CMS regulations state plans / sponsors (as well as agents) cannot use absolute superlatives (e.g. “the best”, “highest ranked”, “number one”) unless they are substantiated with supporting data. I would suggest using the same caution when sending letters to current clients.
Hand-address the envelope and purchase a red stamp that says “Important Plan Information,” or any wording that creates a sense of urgency to the client in red lettering. After you address the envelope, stamp the envelope next to their address. Between the hand-written address and stamp, the vast majority of your letters should get opened. REMEMBER, these are your renewals!
If you have the time or staff available, make a follow up call to ensure your clients stay your clients.
Needing to change plans:
As plans change, some of your current clients may benefit from choosing a new plan.
In this case, you can send a letter stating there may be different options for the following year. Also state that you will contact them over the next week to set an appointment if you do not hear from them.
Then, start making the calls to set appointments.
NOTE: You cannot advertise 2020 benefits and plans until after 10/1/2019.
My clients are not moving plans, what do I do?
Clients staying on the same plans? Looking to give them extra guidance & increasing their coverage?
- Hospital Indemnity Plans (HIP)
- Dental / Vision / Hearing Plans (DVH)
Why those two? Both are on the SOA so if you are reviewing your client’s plans you now have two compliant lines of coverage to review with them!
HIP plans are designed to work with Medicare Advantage plans and pay for some or all of the inpatient co-payments, should you have a client who is hospitalized.
Medicare has very limited coverage for dental, vision, and hearing benefits. Most group plans offer some sort of dental benefits. If your client had a dental plan with their group coverage, why would you not offer them a DVH plan in retirement?
“But the Medicare Advantage plan has some dental coverage!” While some Medicare Advantage plans may have DVH coverage, it is usually very limited.
Informing Your Clients of these Options
We have created letters for you to personalize and use in AEP!
- Keeping their current plan
- Keeping their current plan with HIP offering
- Keeping their current plan with DVH offering
- Need to change plans for next year
CLICK HERE for more info and to get access to these letter & more!
OTHER LEAD CAMPAIGNS IN AEP
Obtaining leads during AEP can be a challenge. More agents are looking for leads, and all the carriers are sending out mail pieces and advertisements. This can drown out mailings and messages from individual agents. It is important to have your own leads, either through unsold prospects or current clients going into AEP. However, if you have to gather additional leads just before or during AEP, here are a couple of ideas:
If you have a local carrier office in your area, ask them if they have any extra leads or need extra assistance enrolling beneficiaries during AEP. Some local offices may have an additional push that year to up enrollment and could use an independent agent to help.
Just remember, their leads should only be used for their products. Selling other carriers with those leads could damage the relationship you have with that carrier and prevent any future leads.
Besides lead overflow, carriers may have some seminar opportunities for you as well. Offer to perform these seminars for the carrier. Remember that CMS has very strict rules about performing Medicare Part C and D seminars.
Looking to perform seminars? Make sure you are talking to the venues ASAP. The “hot spots” are taken quickly!
Need help? Give Senior Marketing Specialists a call and we can get you started with seminars! (800) 689-2800
While internet leads may be the quickest way to acquire leads, many of these leads are going to call centers. This is also a prime season for independent call centers to maximize their sales. Basically, the odds are stacked against an individual agent. This is why planning all year to develop an AEP strategy is critical.
If you are still wanting internet leads, check into exclusive leads that are not sold to anyone else but you. These leads are generally more expensive, but will not be sold to a call center for you to compete with. Also, remember the consumer may have gone to several different websites for information, where they may have completed another form which may be sold as an exclusive lead to other agents.
BRC and other mailers
While many agents will use Business Reply Cards (BRC) and other mailers for lead generation throughout the year, the amount of mail seniors receive prior to and during AEP is overwhelming. Carriers look to generate leads as much as the individual agent but do so with a much larger advertising budget. It is very easy for your mailer to get lost in the shuffle.
If you are going to perform a mailing just before or during AEP, I suggest working with a mail house and talking to them about what mailers they have and their response rate. There is not enough time in AEP for trial and error with your own pieces.
If you use a mail piece to generate Medicare Part C or D leads, the mailer must be CMS approved and a copy sent in with the Scope Of Appointment (SOA) form.
Senior Marketing Specialists has partnered with several mail lead vendors for Medicare Supplement and other mailers.
CLICK HERE TO SEE OUR MAIL LEAD VENDORS
Door to Door
Door to door or unsolicited contact to Medicare beneficiaries is AGAINST CMS REGULATIONS for Medicare Part C and D plans.
You may go door to door for Medicare Supplement sales (depending on your state’s regulations).
Referrals from clients & prospects
Referrals are essential to success in almost any sales career. With AEP, your clients and prospects will more than likely have family and friends who have to review their Medicare coverage. This poses a great opportunity for referrals.
The Medicare deadline is December 7th to make any and all changes to a plan. A Medicare beneficiary’s change of plans creates an opportunity for your client’s referrals to contact you. This deadline is a vital one to mention any time you speak to your clients during AEP in order to earn more referrals.
I suggest mentioning this to all your prospects and clients.An example:
“If you have any family or friends who would like a quick review of their coverage, please pass them my information.They only have until December 7th and I can make the review and change, if needed, as easy and painless for them as I have for you.”
NOTE: You cannot cold call or contact a Medicare beneficiary based on a referral for MA or PDP products. You must have expressed permission or have them reach out to you.
Make the process easy. According to a recent study published by the Kaiser Family Foundation, many Medicare beneficiaries will not change plans because they found the initial enrollment very confusing and complex, and they do not want to repeat the process.
After each appointment, send your client a handwritten thank you card with a few extra business cards. A simple note thanking them for their time (or business), a personalized sentence, and your phone number can go a long way. Example:
Thank you for allowing me to assist you with your insurance needs. I hope you enjoy your vacation to Texas over the holidays. If you or anyone you know has questions, please let me know!
Thanks –Mike (555) 555-1212
This card takes about two minutes to write. Most people don’t get handwritten thank you cards, so this will stand out from other pieces of mail.
Referrals from other professionals
Working with other professionals can help build referrals and help you to become a resource for your current clients and prospects.
While these relationships take time to build, they are worth pursuing. Here are some professionals I suggest reaching out to:
- P&C agents
- Estate planning attorneys
- Tax professionals
- Insurance agents who specialize in group coverage or under 65
- Financial Planners
- Banks / Credit Unions
You can also offer to do generic Medicare or healthcare presentations at local events like Chamber of Commerce meetings, Rotary Club, churches/parishes etc. While your target audience may not be in front of you, these events probably have family or friends to who they can pass any information along to. Stress the importance of the December 7th date to make changes with all of the above.
The most important thing you can do during AEP, or any other time during the year, is to keep your sales pipeline full of prospects and marketing efforts.
Just as important; track your results. Simply throwing money and time at marketing is no way to have effective results, especially during such a short enrollment period.
Don’t just keep busy, keep productive.
NOTE: We have templates available for you to use. Call us for details. 800-689-2800.
Your clients and prospects are using Facebook regardless of what you are doing social media wise. Make sure they are finding YOU and not your competition!
What to do:
- Create a Facebook Page for your agency
- Post at least 3x’s a week –useful or interesting topics –we can help you with this!
- Invite your friends/clients/prospects to like your page
- Keep active and keep being seen online!
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