An AEP Like Never Before

September 24, 2020 Agent Resources

It’s that time of year again, the relative calm before the storm. As October 15 quickly approaches, advisors are busy contracting with new carriers, learning 2021 plan features, booking appointments with their clients, and completing their dreaded AHIP certifications. Nevertheless, as we all prepare for the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP), now is a great time to consider how this year’s AEP could be radically different from years past.

We’ve all had to make difficult adjustments in our everyday lives this year. No one has been hit harder than the senior population.

You have likely seen the statistics; an infected individual age 65-74 is five times more likely to require hospitalization and 90 times more likely to suffer death compared to an individual age 18-29 years old1. This increased vulnerability has created considerable anxiety amongst our seniors, and it has shaped three factors that are important to remember this AEP.

1. A prolonged hospital stay (and its associated cost) is at the top of mind for seniors

A senior who gets the virus is much more likely to require hospitalization than an individual under the age of 65. In fact, CMS data shows that more than 325,000 Medicare beneficiaries were diagnosed with the virus between January 1 and May 16, 2020. During that time, roughly 110,000 of those individuals (about 34%) were hospitalized2. With this in mind, there has never been a better time to talk to your senior clients about a hospital confinement plan that can pay them a daily cash benefit if they are hospitalized.

The demand for this type of product has certainly surged this year. At SureBridge, we have seen a 187% increase in submitted applications on our Senior HospitalWise plan so far in 2020. This product is especially attractive to Medicare Advantage clients who could face daily copays for inpatient hospital stays. Even better, by choosing some of the riders on the plan, your clients can secure benefits for visits to the ER, ambulance rides, outpatient surgeries, diagnostic exams, and even a prolonged stay at a skilled nursing facility. If you have never discussed a hospital confinement insurance plan with your clients, this AEP is a great opportunity to start. (Just make sure it is included and initialed on the scope of appointment.)

2. Seniors are embracing technology like never before

A recent survey found that “more than 60% of Medicare-eligible seniors say they’ve embraced technology more” this year.3 Social distancing has been and will continue to be a major tool to help keep people well, and many are turning to new technology as an alternative source for information, communication, entertainment, and even their healthcare. In fact, Medicare-eligible seniors have increased their telehealth usage a whopping 340% this year.4 Consumers are seeing the benefits of avoiding the exposure risk of a trip to the doctor’s office and receiving their healthcare from the comfort of their own homes. In fact, the American Medical Association and Wellness Council of America found that “almost 75% of all doctor, urgent care, and ER visits ‘are either unnecessary or could be handled safely and effectively over the phone or video.’ ”5 You may not have thought of telehealth services as a good fit for your senior clients in the past, but this is an AEP like never before. Products such as GetWell by SureBridge Medical Assistance — which includes 24/7 video and telephone access to doctors who can diagnose and give treatment for common ailments, and prescribe medications — should no longer be reserved for just your most tech-savvy clientele.

3. Your senior clients don’t want to see you this AEP

Don’t take it personally — it’s the way things are this year! With so many taking extreme steps to isolate and socially distance, the last thing they want or need is a face-to-face meeting with their advisor. This can make it tough for “old school” advisors who have traditionally met with clients at their kitchen table and taken their insurance applications via paper. The good news is that senior clients are embracing technology at unprecedented rates, and many are more than happy to have these meetings online or over the phone. Advisors who also embrace this change and strive to create a client experience that matches (or even exceeds) a face-to-face visit will have a significant advantage over those who don’t. Most Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement carriers offer some type of online or over-the-phone enrollment. While SureBridge does not offer any Med Supp or MA plans, our ancillary products — including our hospital confinement (HospitalWise), dental/vision/hearing (Prime DVH), and critical illness (HeartWise and CancerWise Plus) plans — were designed to be sold over the phone. These ancillary products can help your clients pay for expenses Medicare does not cover, such as copays, out-of-pocket costs, and other indirect expenses. With text, voice, and e-mail signature options, we can create a positive “virtual” experience for your client, whatever their tech-savviness.

This WILL be an AEP like never before. What that means for your clients and your business is entirely up to you. I hope you make it a great one!

Mike Zundel is a senior sales director at SureBridge.