AEP 2021 will be here before we know it. Health plans, FMOs and agents are all gearing up for the next AEP without fully knowing what to expect. In increasingly uncertain times of a pandemic, civil unrest and an election year, it is not clear how all of this will impact a senior’s choice of Medicare plans. There is a lot at stake. And, looking at past performance may not be a good indicator of what lies ahead—this year especially.

Stephen Covey’s second habit, “Begin with the end in mind”,  is sound advice for AEP planning. The best preparation takes place with a clear vision of your desired outcomes and knowing how you will arrive at your destination.

Consider the following for your own AEP 2021 Readiness Toolkit, to help you meet your objectives and set the course for your most successful AEP ever:

  1. Develop a fluid retention strategy – Focusing your time and attention on your end-goal of retaining your current customers is smart business. A retention strategy that engages your seniors and adapts to their needs and concerns during these challenging times will help keep them with you and protect your brand reputation.

According to a recent COVID-19 study by Deft Research, seniors indicated their health plans have not effectively communicated what they are doing to help members. Only 25% of Medicare Advantage members know what their health plan’s response has been to the pandemic. And it is worse for Medicare Supplement members. Only 11% of those with MedSupp insurance know what their health plan has done as a result of COVID-19. Those who have felt left out are less likely to be loyal to their current brand in the Fall.

If you are not actively retaining your customers today, be prepared they could be looking elsewhere this AEP.

  1. Increase agent adoption efforts – Utilize the right telework shopping, quoting and enrollment technology to engage agents. Agents who have previously relied on paper enrollments and in-person meetings, have shifted to technology out of necessity. Agents will need the time to get comfortable with new technology long before AEP begins.

A successful agent adoption strategy should include:

a. Telework tools that work on all devices (laptops, phones and tablets) – When new customer acquisition and current customer retention is the goal, agents need all the tools on one platform to make sure enrollments happen. And, device flexibility is key to engaging seniors the way they want to engage. Important broker tools include, among others: The ability to manage a Book of Business and perform tasks in one place, Scope of Appointment, Quoting, Carrier Inventory and plans agents are licensed to sell, Text to Enroll and Shopping Links (Personalized URLs).

b. Training – Agents need to be trained on technology that may be foreign to them. Where does training reside in your organization? In other words, who is responsible for training agents and making sure it gets done.

c.  Best practices and communications – Video training demos that show agents how to access and use your platform on the front- and back-end, along with easy-to-understand best practice “tips” and “tricks”, will go a long way to helping agents get comfortable with new technology. Simple reference guides and materials they can refer to at any time will help agents build new habits long before AEP.

3. Communicate consistently with your distribution channels – Health plans and FMOs need to consider how they will communicate with and engage different channels to increase enrollments, through knowledge of the unique needs of each audience:

a. Direct-to-consumer – Do you have a plan to help seniors self-serve more this AEP, while letting them know agents are still available to guide them? Communicate and connect directly to seniors to keep them with your plan and reduce the risk of switching.

b. Call centersPreloading of medicine cabinet and demographic information, along with custom scripting on your shopping and enrollment platform has proven to help call center agents enroll beneficiaries in their best fit plan in one call, significantly reducing call times.

c. Field agents – Agents will be spending more time on the phone and less time in person. With the right tools, agents can assist seniors in understanding how inputting their prescription medications will impact their total out-of-pocket costs, critical to pairing beneficiaries with their best fit plans. Agents can even guide current customers to update their medicine cabinets well in advance of AEP, so seniors are ready to enroll on October 15.

“Begin with the end in mind” by identifying the outcomes you want to achieve this AEP today to keep your customers with you, prevent plan switching and protect your brand reputation. The right retention strategy, easy-to-use technology designed for telework, agent adoption program and targeted communications will keep your unique audiences informed and engaged and enable you to grow your customer base. Preparation in increasingly uncertain times will help you meet your objectives this AEP. Get ready now.

Learn more about ConnectureDRX’s PlanCompare ONE Digital Medicare technology for shopping, quoting, enrollment and retention. One platform is all you need to meet your objectives this AEP.