RISE will examine what happened during the 2019 Medicare Open Enrollment Period (OEP) and what actions health plans should take to prepare for next year’s OEP during a webinar on June 11 at 1:30 p.m. EST. The webinar will feature speakers from Deft Research, a Blue Cross plan, a field marketing organization, and an agency. In this article we talk to one of the webinar speakers, Renée Mezzanotte, EVP/client engagement, DMW, about the OEP and the current state of Medicare.

2019 OEP insights from Deft Research, a Blue plan, an FMO, and an ad agency

Health plans weren’t sure what to expect when the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the return of the OEP, allowing Medicare Advantage (MA) members to switch plans from January 1st through March 31st. The problem: CMS marketing guidelines prohibited insurers to market specifically to individuals who had MA plans. How would members know they could select another plan? Would insurers lose or gain members?

Until this year members could only switch plans during the Annual Election Period (AEP). The only exception was if MA members had a 5-star plan in their area or if they fell within a special enrollment period. With so many unknowns about the OEP, Mezzanotte said that insurers took different degrees of action to prevent churn and to be visible in the marketplace.

“We do know that Kantar Media/CMAG reported more Medicare advertising activity than last year at the same time. It also appears that new to Medicare direct mail activity increased. Advocacy groups and news outlets wrote about the new opportunity to switch. The results: Members did switch and in higher numbers than I think most insurers expected,” said Mezzanotte, a member of RISE’s Medicare Market Advisory Board, who will discuss national advertising trends at the webinar.

RELATED: Medicare marketing & sales: 6 trends in 2019 Medicare shopping and switching

The one-hour live event will look at whether members switched plans because they were surprised about their benefits when they tried to access coverage or whether they learned of a different plan that had additional supplemental benefits. Were they influenced by friends, family, or brokers?

George Dippel, senior vice president of client services, Deft Research, will provide insight into these questions via findings from Deft’s latest OEP consumer study. He will be joined by Kortney Cruz, director, Medicare sales and marketing, Independence Blue Cross, who will present on how the insurer planned for the OEP and the results of its efforts, and Jameson Keller, vice president of strategic development, AgencyRM, who will provide the broker perspective.

Mezzanotte said that the insurers should use the information from the webinar to formulate their plans for acquisition during the AEP, retention of current and new members, and efforts to ensure visibility during the 2020 OEP.

OEP and the current Medicare landscape

Medicare is in an interesting and exciting phase, particularly when it comes to Medicare Advantage, and CMS is driving that change, said Mezzanotte.

“CMS, with its new rulings on supplement benefits, its member advocacy by instituting the OEP, and its support of providers to engage with their members about plan benefits, is challenging Medicare Advantage insurers to innovate and bring new thinking to plan design and member benefits. And insurers are rising to the occasion. I think consumers will see very different Medicare Advantage plans in the marketplace during this AEP,” she said.

RELATED: 4 insights into individual and family plan shopping and switching during the 2019 OEP

She noted that the types of insurers entering the Medicare Advantage space are also disrupting the landscape. For instance, she said, provider-backed plans have shifted the paradigm of the insurer-provider-consumer relationship.

“With all these changes, Medicare insurance marketing is also evolving.  It must for Medicare Advantage plans to compete and succeed,” said Mezzanotte.

Medicare’s OEP: What Happened and Why will take place at 1:30 p.m. EST on Tuesday, June 11. The live, one-hour event is free to RISE Association members. For more information or to register, click here.