Members of RISE’s Medicare Member Acquisition & Experience Advisory Board will join Kevin Mowll, executive director of the RISE Association, during a January 30th webinar to discuss trends in the Medicare Advantage (MA) marketplace that emerged from the 2020 Annual Enrollment Period. In this article, RISE talks to Mowll about some of the factors that have changed the MA landscape in recent years.

Mowll will moderate the 90-minute webinar (free to association members) and ask the panel about their insights into what this year’s AEP revealed about product design, marketing strategies, sales techniques, and member engagement.

He says that several factors have had an impact on the industry:

Demographics: The industry is still facing a dramatic age-in of baby boomers coming in to eligibility to Medicare and this population prefers MA plans as a means of coverage. Mowll expects more insurers will begin to offer MA plans, and we will continue to see a decline in enrollment of Medicare supplement plans. “The Med supp plans have been losing out as baby boomers have favored the MA option,” he says.

Finances: The MA market benefited from increased payments under the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003. Although those payments were cut during a six-year period under the Affordable Care Act from 114 percent to 100 percent of costs per enrollee, MA plans have been able to reduce per-beneficiary costs and increase revenue through the Medicare Stars bonus programs.

“We are seeing the Medicare Stars program performing at a level where a great majority of plans are seeing significant revenue pick-up through the program,” Mowll says. “There has been a lot of economic and democratic impetus to growth plus changes in terms of benefit flexibilities around supplemental benefits and now social determinants of health elements, so we are seeing a lot of factors in favor for the growth in the Medicare Advantage space. What we are going to hear from the panel is the way in which those dynamics are being played out in the local marketplace.”

PPOs: Mowll expects the panel to discuss the uptake in Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) design and offerings. While PPOs are generally less cost effective than HMOs, they are an alternative for people who want additional flexibility of larger provider networks. “I want to tease out what the panel is seeing in benefit plan design coming to the market and what impact it has had on the local market,” he says.

Brokers: Another development in the market is the increase in the number of brokers selling MA plans. Fifteen years ago, he says, brokers were focused on Medicare supplemental coverage as a vehicle to provide insurance for retirees. But over time, they have become a mainstay of the distribution channels and MA plans are figuring out compliance issues and the correct mix of the use of brokers and in-house employed sales representatives.  “I think we are at the point that the whole angle of sales has matured, so I expect to hear from the panel about what they think is the optimal mix,” he says.

Marketing and sales:  Marketing has also moved to digital channels and more consumers are hearing about plans and engaging with plans online. However, he notes that while most of the shopping is done online, it doesn’t mean that people are buying plans online. “I think we will hear during the webinar how much of an uptick there was of online buying of plans and enrolling directly in a plan versus a final purchase being done over the phone with a live agent. So, we will find out what is working in terms of marketing techniques, what is working in terms of final sales, and who the final agent is, whether it’s the broker, captive agent, or outsource telephonic sales organization,” Mowll says.

Member engagement: This is one of the most difficult aspects because who touches a member is different over the entire life cycle of a member, according to Mowll. Someone sells them a plan, then someone else takes over for onboarding, and then another person may work with the member once they experience the benefits of the plan. “From an engagement strategy perspective, how does a plan create continuity so people don’t fall through the cracks, so there is cross-departmental collaboration or integration so that someone is paying attention to all the touch points of the life of the member,” he says.

Mowll says that plans need to think about collaboration across the entire health system so that members are satisfied with their experience and more likely to renew with the plan next year.  “We’ll hear strategies and tactics that plans have used to provide a positive experience over the course of the year to retain these members. This is a great opportunity to plans to hear from their peers who can provide them with relevant ideas and make their MA program even more vibrant,” he says.

Editor’s note: Medicare Marketing & Sales: Lessons and Insights from AEP for 2020 will take place at 1 p.m. EST on Thursday, Jan. 30. Registration is free for members.