AEP preparation advice from IMO execs: Part I
Are you ready yet?
The start of Medicare’s Annual Election Period (AEP) – Oct. 15-Dec. 7 – is just over a month away, meaning agent preparations are well underway to make sure they will hit the ground running and processes will run smoothly so as to not lose valuable time dealing with any variety of non-selling activities such as:
• Getting certified/contracted with all needed carriers and plans
• Familiarity with new plans entering the market
• Adhering to CMS compliance and marketing guidelines
• Making sure all necessary supplies are on hand
It’s a stressful, pressure-packed time of year for agents in the senior market who can’t afford mistakes that force them to take finite time away from selling to deal with issues, or not having a solid strategy in place to ensure their time is being spent efficiently.
This being the case, Insurance Forums asked top executives from some of the leading IMOs/FMOs in the senior market to share some of their insight and advice about key topics to be aware of and how agents be as prepared as possible in advance of AEP.
We want to give a special thanks to Craig Ritter of Ritter Insurance Marketing, Josh Vandenberg of Precision Senior Marketing, JoAnn Wray of Senior Marketing Specialists and Ryan Kimble of Agent Pipeline, Inc., for taking the time to provide their unique perspective (please see bios for all four execs at the end of this article). Here in Part I we share their responses about opportunities, potential obstacles and advice for dealing with the stress that goes along with AEP planning and execution. In Part II on Thursday, they’ll cover the value of hired help, specific ways they are helping their agents prepare for the coming rush, and what would constitute a successful AEP when Dec. 8 rolls around.
Biggest AEP opportunities and concerns
Question #1: As October 15 approaches, what are some of the biggest opportunities and/or concerns agents should have about this year’s AEP?
Josh Vandenberg: Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) provides an excellent opportunity for agents due to the heightened marketing and consumer awareness. Even if Medicare is not your primary focus, there is no better door-opener to other sales than using Medicare as your lead in. One of the major things agents need to worry about is making sure you have a good portfolio of ancillary products (Hospital Indemnity, Life, Annuity, Dental, etc.). Due to recent CMS changes, any Medicare Advantage business you write during AEP will not pay you until January so our agents have found it imperative to cross-sell other products in order to cover their expenses during this timeframe.
Craig Ritter: I emphasize contracting and certifying early to make sure that agents have supplies in hand by the start of AEP. I also encourage agents to “map out” their AEP strategy around this time, since they probably should have a pretty good idea of Medicare Advantage plan designs for 2017. There may be some plan disruptions that require agents to replace business that is exiting. There may be significant changes in premiums or benefits to address with clients. Having a plan to address existing clients’ concerns from October 1st through October 14th will free up more time to go after new business. Having a solid plan is critical since the AEP can become overwhelming for agents.
JoAnn Wray: Some of the biggest opportunities this year are in the expansion of Medicare Advantage plans as they increase their footprint into neighboring counties in several of our key markets. Being an election year, many beneficiaries have healthcare at the forefront of their minds. We feel that all signs are pointing toward a very successful AEP due to this increased mindfulness, the high volume of attendees at product roll-out meetings, new agents getting contracted, and certification being up over 25% of what is was this time last year. Pre-ordering of supplies is also up over last year, even with the increase of E-app processes that every carrier is getting better at and making much more streamlined for the agent and the client.
Ryan Kimble: • Opportunities – There are major carrier expansions in the Medicare Advantage space that will cause positive market disruption. Strength and stability will also play a huge role in the plans agents sell. In addition to Medicare Advantage, there are many new Medicare Supplement plans that have entered the market within the last 90 days. This continues to offer Medicare beneficiaries lower-priced options in the market.
• Concerns – Completing certifications early, getting supplies ordered and ensuring they are received so that agents are ready to go by October 1 are always concerns. Determining their marketing plan and how they are going to find prospects and reach their target market.
• Thoughts on the advice here, or have your own comments about preparing for AEP? Please share on this new thread: AEP prep advice from IMO leaders
Next page: “Under the radar” stumbling blocks and opportunities
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