User group members discussed the impact of COVID-19 on Medicare sales strategies, the annual election period (AEP), and broker loyalty.

RISE spearheaded its first Medicare Sales User Group meeting on April 21. The call was chaired by Alicia Kelley, vice president, Medicare performance, CDPHP, and Steve Selinsky, vice president of product, marketing, and community outreach, HAP. Here are the top takeaways from the conversation.

The impact of COVID-19 on sales strategies

The need for social distancing led health plans to cancel all in-person events and rely on webinars to educate beneficiaries about their coverage.

If they have not done so already, health plans must develop and embrace digital sales channels to prepare for the long-term impact of COVID-19. Kelley says user experience and web presence will be key in standing out against the national health plans in this new environment.

User group participants are using different platforms to conduct sales and Medicare 101 presentations, including Facebook Live, Zoom, and WebEx. But no one had a magic bullet for which platform was the best, Kelley notes.

Regardless of the platform, people are showing up to meetings. One Illinois health plan had nearly 100 people attend a Medicare learning webinar in April. The meeting was heavily publicized via social media as well as emails targeted to current commercial health plan members approaching the age of Medicare eligibility. The health plan also asked registrants to opt in an email marketing list. Those that agreed will be added to the plan’s aging-in campaign and a salesperson will reach out to them within the month.

Strategies for the AEP during a national election

COVID-19 and the AEP during the Presidential election could create a “perfect storm” for Medicare sales and enrollment.

One user group participant expects there will be a decline in the number of people shopping for new coverage during the AEP because of COVID-19 and the Presidential election. There will likely be little to no face-to-face interactions.

Another user group member is starting to pull together resources to ensure field agents and internal teams have the necessary materials to conduct sales via the phone, email, or video conferencing. He anticipates a greater need for virtual educational seminars as more people who elected to not take Medicare will now need the coverage if they have been laid off or furloughed. They must make the transition earlier than planned.

The key, participants say, is to have a Plan B and Plan C, and be ready to execute on those plans as quickly as possible.   

Kelley suggests that plans work with their web marketing and technology teams to enhance online shopping tolls for both brokers and prospects who want to self-serve. “People may be less inclined to meet face-to-face this fall so you need to give them the tools they need to complete sales on their own or with minimal guidance from your sales teams,” she says.

Furthermore, health plans must improve the user experience on sales platforms and provide a good experience, so consumers do not decide to go shopping somewhere else.

Building broker loyalty

Some field marketing organizations (FMO) are using marketing dollars and enhanced shopping tools to buy loyalty with the national carriers, Kelley notes. National carriers are also paying out commissions faster than the regional players. This creates an environment where smaller- to mid-size carriers are finding it difficult to build broker loyalty in some markets.

She suggests plans increase broker loyalty through high-touch service and ease of use of your plans.

Join the next user group meeting

RISE will soon be scheduling the next Sales User Group meeting. If you’d like to participate, contact RISE Marketing Coordinator Tracy Anderson at