With pumpkin spice lattes nigh, we can nearly smell the coming of a very busy time of year for carriers, agencies, MGAs/MGUs. Yes, you guessed it, we’re talking about Medicare open enrollment season – Oct. 15 through Dec. 7.
If you’re a carrier, agency, or MGA/MGU and you’re trying to come to terms with the amount of work you need to do before, during, and after Medicare open enrollment season, then have no fear. We’re here to walk you through some best practices to ensure the season runs smoothly for you, your producers, and your customers.
Why is Medicare open enrollment such a big deal?
Medicare open enrollment season is the opportunity for Medicare beneficiaries to join the Medicare Advantage plan best suited to their needs.
It’s important to note: At this time, only beneficiaries already enrolled in a Medicare plan may switch between or to Medicare Advantage plans. If you have any questions about the intricacies of Medicare enrollment periods, check out our intro to Medicare piece, which touches on the who, what, when, and why of Medicare.
Efforts are increasing to drive awareness of the importance of open enrollment season and the opportunity to switch between plans. In 2021, one of every eight Medicare beneficiaries — 8.3 million people — selected individual plans during open enrollment, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Chances are, the number of beneficiaries taking advantage of this enrollment period will only increase in 2022.
So, carriers, agencies, and MGAs/MGUs better be prepared to handle the business.
Best practices for carriers, agencies, and MGAs/MGUs
Even if Medicare open enrollment season continues to hover at around a 10 percent participation rate, that’s still millions of senior and disabled Americans looking for support when switching between Medicare plans. And that simply isn’t something carriers, agencies, or MGAs/MGUs can ignore.
When done right, open enrollment season is the opportunity for these companies to prove they’re a well-oiled machine, gain clout with producers, and help Medicare beneficiaries live their very best lives. But when done wrong, open enrollment season can be messy, stressful, and expensive.
We’re of the opinion that Medicare season should always be done right. So, here we are laying out some of the best practices that can help your company succeed.
1. Plan for Medicare open enrollment well in advance
To handle the influx in business, carriers, agencies, and MGAs/MGUs generally need to onboard new producers for open enrollment season. That may not sound like a big deal, but it is, and shouldn’t, under any circumstances, be left until the last minute.
Recruiting new producers is always a pain. After all, producers have no shortage of companies to work with. On top of that, Medicare open enrollment season makes recruiting even harder because all companies with a hand in Medicare Advantage products need support through this time. So competition is high.
But, the reality is, these producers will operate in something of a temporary role. Carriers, agencies, and MGAs/MGUs need the support of these producers to get through open enrollment season but won’t have enough work to keep them busy throughout the year. So, they’ll be onboarded shortly before Medicare open enrollment and offboarded shortly after.
Recruiting these new producers and managing the onboarding and offboarding process will inevitably result in additional workload for existing staff. By planning for this influx of new producers, and establishing both a recruiting strategy and a system for what onboarding and offboarding might look like, companies can set the framework for a successful open enrollment season.
2. Build a positive experience for producers
Medicare open enrollment is annual. It happens every single year. Sure, you may not have enough work to keep producers onboard for Medicare open enrollment active year-round, but you do know you’ll have a need for them for the next enrollment period.
By building a positive experience for producers from their first Medicare open enrollment season, carriers, agencies, and MGAs/MGUs can save time and money on recruiting efforts by fostering company loyalty and encouraging producers to come back year over year.
Consider this: A carrier needs to onboard hundreds of producers to manage Medicare open enrollment season. This carrier didn’t start planning for Medicare open enrollment ahead of time and failed to build a system for onboarding and offboarding. As a result, the overall producer experience is stressful, time-consuming, and messy.
Next year, as producers gear up for Medicare open enrollment season, there isn’t a whole lot of incentive for those producers to go back to the same carrier. Instead, they may opt to work with the carrier’s competitor. After all, the producer heard from peers that the competitor has a pleasant and time-saving onboarding and offboarding process.
Keeping producers happy is key to making sure carriers, agencies, and MGAs/MGUs don’t need to start recruiting producers from scratch each and every enrollment period. So remember, even if these producers are only employed in a seasonal capacity, keeping them happy can drive annual successes.
3. Use licensing software to save time and prevent regulatory actions
It’s clear Medicare open enrollment season can be a very hectic period for all parties involved. It’s no surprise, then, that human error can complicate the onboarding and offboarding processes.
But onboarding and offboarding producers comes with a whole slew of regulatory requirements for each and every state within which a producer sells insurance products. The same is true when it comes to Medicare Advantage products. So, inaccuracies or mistakes in onboarding and offboarding can result in costly regulatory actions. No good, if you ask us.
Fortunately, carriers, agencies, and MGAs/MGUs can avoid these slip-ups by using licensing software. Licensing software helps save time and prevent human error in producer onboarding and offboarding in a few ways:
- Flag gaps in producer licensing during the onboarding process. This allows companies to correct licensure mistakes before it’s time for a producer to sell.
- Reduce paperwork by digitizing the onboarding and offboarding processes. Trust us, less paper is a good thing for your sanity, your producer’s sanity, and the survival of the environment. A win, win, win.
- Instead of needing to remember to terminate, in some cases, thousands of producers, licensing software allows companies to create a termination date that automates the offboarding process once the date is passed.
- Retain records and licensing information for auditing and market conduct exams. That way, staff won’t need to retroactively sort through documentation to pull key data when it comes time for the exam.
On top of preventing regulatory actions, licensing software has the added benefit of improving the producer experience. Producers want onboarding and offboarding to be as simple, quick, and painless as possible. By saving data for auto-filling, producers won’t have to rekey basic information across multiple points. In our experience, repeating information form by form and year over year is one of the things that producers say detracts from their overall experience. Since licensing software streamlines licensure processes and flags any potential gaps in licensing, it can be the key to creating a positive producer experience, driving producer loyalty, and encouraging producers to come back year after year.
Are you ready for open enrollment?
We know preparing for Medicare open enrollment season can feel daunting. After all, once you’ve finally ramped down from last year’s enrollment season, it’s just about time to start ramping up for this year. Fortunately, following these key best practices can be the stepping stones to successful enrollment seasons for years to come. If you’re a producer, make sure you take the time to read our piece on best practices for producers as well. AgentSync can help you ramp up for Medicare open enrollment, so book a demo with us.