Your chances of attracting enrollees to your Medicare Advantage plan rely significantly on understanding and leveraging the various enrollment periods and optimizing your contacts.

Your strategy should address three enrollment periods.  Most plans are focused on the first two listed below which are the most important, but many plans are ignoring the opportunity represented by the third enrollment period.

Recognize that from a marketing standpoint, the Open Enrollment Period happens just once a year, but the Initial Enrollment Period and Special Enrollment Period is happening year-round—involving a different group of individuals each month.

To give some perspective to the scale of these audiences relative to one another, consider the following example:

  • The geographies covered by a plan contain 1,000,000 individuals aged 65-79 (the potential universe for the Open Enrollment Period).
  • In the same geography, approximately 7,333 turn 65 each month or approximately 88,000 across the year (the potential universe for the Initial Enrollment Period).
  • In the same geography, approximately 1,667 move into the geography each month or approximately 20,000 across the year (the potential universe for the Initial Enrollment Period). * Note that this number can vary widely for different geographies; it tends to be higher in warmer states.

Following are some implications for marketing in each of the enrollment periods:

Initial Enrollment Period

This is the most consequential enrollment period and deserves the greatest focus.  Most individuals who ultimately enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan will do so during this period.  And everyone in this bucket is starting from no plan.  The marketer has the opportunity to educate and position themselves as a trusted partner.

On average nationally, individuals will be selecting among 28 plans offered by seven firms.  On average, 41% of individuals will select to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan.  If your success during this period was simply random—no better or worse than your competitors—you might expect to enroll approximately 6% of the available audience.  Note, however, that the percentage of the eligible population who enroll in a Medicare Advantage varies by state.  (We’ve included a table showing percent by state at the end of this article.)  A sizable minority of enrollees also delay their Social Security start and therefore their Medicare election, so remarketing to 66-year-olds is a valid strategy particularly because you may be jostling with fewer competitors.

Because this enrollment period is so important, and you’ll be competing with other marketers, you must use a multi-contact strategy and start even before the enrollment period has begun.  The idea is to build awareness and preference over time and position yourself as a trusted advocate.  Consider at least three direct mail contacts matched with a greater number of digital contacts (email or programmatic display) in addition to any general media.  Your messaging should evolve over the span of your contacts:

  • “What you should know about the Medicare and the decisions you’ll be making.”
  • “The [XYZ Plan] advantage.” (your offering)
  • “Let us help you choose the right Medicare Advantage plan for you.”
  • “Last chance to choose or switch your Medicare Advantage plan.  We’re here to help.”

Open Enrollment Period

Because everyone aged 65 or older can make a change during this period—a large prospect universe—you should use a predictive model to identify the prospects with the highest propensity to select your plan(s), and focus your marketing dollars and attention on that group.  You can expect a good model will identify approximately 20% of the prospect universe which contains approximately 50% of all the likely enrollees in your plans.  You may have some marketing directed to the wider universe, but you should at least focus additional tactics against the best prospects.

Since, you’ll be doing modeling, we recommend a second model that identifies those prospects likely to enroll in a premium plan.  The second model has implications for outbound marketing as well driving upsell activity in your call center or in a lead scoring application. 

Special Enrollment Period

This period is a little more challenging in some ways, but moves are a time when these kinds of changes are on people’s minds.  In a new market, movers have to find new providers, and the right plan is an important consideration.  And as addressed previously, you are likely to encounter fewer competitors during the period.  You’ll want to identify new movers aged 65+ into your plan geography from an area not covered by your plan.  Remember that moves are occurring all the time, so this is a continual year-round effort.  We recommend two direct mail contacts shortly following the move.