Get ready for AEP. The Medicare Annual Election Period for 2020 coverage starts October 15, 2019 and ends December 7, 2019. That may seem like a long way off, but it will be here before you know it. Here’s why it’s shaping up to be a busy year.
Enrollment Is Up
More and more people are choosing Medicare Advantage. According to CMS, enrollment in Medicare Advantage was projected to reach an all-time high of 22.6 million beneficiaries in 2019. This means that more than a third of Medicare enrollees are now picking Medicare Advantage.
Given the cost, this shouldn’t be surprising. Average Medicare Advantage premiums have been decreasing since 2015. The average 2019 Medicare Advantage premium was estimated to be $28, a decrease of $1.81 from the previous year.
Increased availability is another factor. The number of Medicare Advantage plan choices has been going up. In 2019, there were about 3,700 plan options nationally, an increase of 600 from the previous year, and 91 percent of Medicare enrollees had access to 10 or more Medicare Advantage plans.
Benefits Are Changing
Recent changes in Medicare rules mean that plans have more flexibility in the benefits they offer. Medicare Advantage plans can now offer certain non-skilled home care benefits. According to Think Advisor, approximately 7.5 percent of Medicare Advantage enrollees had access to new benefits providing support for long-term care and chronic conditions in 2019.
In April, CMS finalized new rules allowing even more nonmedical benefits in 2020. Under the new rules, plans can provide transportation, food delivery, carpet shampooing and other benefits designed to improve health for people with chronic illness.
More People May Want to Switch
According to Deft Research’s 2019 Medicare Shopping and Switching Study, the Medicare Advantage switch rate fell from 23 percent in 2015 to 11 percent in 2018. In 2019, the downward trend reversed, and the switch rate was 14 percent.
If this continues, more people may be shopping around this AEP. With so many plan options, and with the possibility of new benefits in those plans, enrollees will have a lot to consider this AEP.
Confusion Could Be Common
While change can be a good thing, it can also lead to confusion. Enrollees may need guidance understanding the new options. They may also have questions about the new Open Enrollment Period.
The new Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period runs from January 1 to March 31. During this time, people already enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan can switch to another Medicare Advantage plan or to Original Medicare. However, only one switch is allowed, and people enrolled in Original Medicare cannot switch to Medicare Advantage. There are also marketing restrictions. Read about what agents can and cannot do here.
Get Ready in 10 Steps
Medicare enrollees have a lot of options and changes to consider. Get ready for a busy AEP.
- Pass the annual certification programs from America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) and carriers. AHIP is a bit more difficult this year. Even veteran agents have been challenged. Don’t rush. Download the five modules from your dashboard and set aside a good block of time. If you fail, either check with your agency partner or contact us for support and a plan.
- Get six CE credits for your AHIP efforts. It is worth your time to pay $30 for 6 CE credits. If you’re interested, notify AHIP that you want credit before your test. When you’ve passed, you’ll be prompted to pay $30 and complete an affidavit to submit to state for CE.
- Once you’re done with AHIP, continue on and complete your carrier certifications. Go to Certification Central on your dashboard for an overview of each carrier’s requirements.
- Watch for plan changes. Many First Looks have been released and more are coming. You can find First Looks from "My Dashboard" on the Western Asset Protection website. They are located on the Forms and Supplies tab for each carrier.
- Get your retention letters ready and out the door by September 1. Contracted agents can download templates under "Resources & Marketing Guidlines" on your WapSite Dashboard. Be sure to follow compliance guidelines set out here.
- Update your CRM system and create a systemized process for managing your contacts. If you don’t have a CRM, there’s still time. Get a demo and discount here.
- Get WAP’s mobile quoting app if you don’t already have it.
- Get your marketing materials ready and approved.
- Order supplies. We will send you details about how to order carrier supplies as they become available
- Don’t delay. AEP runs from October 15 to December 7, but many decisions will be made early in this period. Remember – your clients are another agent’s prospects. You can begin marketing AEP on October 1.
As always, WAP is your partner. If you have any questions about your AEP readiness, contact us.