Editor’s Note: The original version of this story, 2019 Medicare OEP: You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression, was published by RISE in July 2018, Open Enrollment Period (OEP) regulations have since changed and Wunderman has updated the article to reflect current requirements.

Market Situation The Medicare OEP is BACK!
The OEP began on January 1 and allowa Medicare beneficiaries to make “like plan” changes until March31. . This is not just an extension of the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) (which is between October 15th and December 7th each year); rather the OEP should be likened to a “grace period,” where Medicare beneficiaries are allowed the opportunity to disenroll from their current plan and select a new plan with their existing carrier or competitor.

RELATED: 2019 Medicare OEP: You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression

Medicare beneficiaries will be able to make the following changes during the 2019 OEP: (Source: www.CMS.gov Medicare Managed Care Manual, updated 7/31/18)
• Discontinue an enrollment in an MA plan and enroll in Original Medicare
• Switch from Original Medicare to an MA plan
• Switch from one MA plan to another MA plan

Market Implications The old adage “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” has never been truer for Medicare Advantage Plans. These insurers will not only need to optimize their acquisition strategy for AEP, but also develop a comprehensive, actionable strategy to retain members through OEP. Marketing budgets will likely need to be re-assessed, and technology infrastructure will need to be evaluated and tested to ensure all processes are running smoothly and efficiently. In addition, MA Plans will want to invest the time and effort (NOW) to educate and train their staff.


Marketing Strategy Overview
The reinstatement of the OEP fundamentally changes a health plan’s sales and marketing strategy. There’s a new opportunity to ‘seize the moment’ and be a winner during OEP if they can create a feeling of ‘Wantedness’ (www.wantedness.com) for the member, beginning with onboarding.

MA Plans should consider the following three priorities to set-up for success during 2019 OEP:
1) Seamless Onboarding

Focusing on ways to enhance the customer’s onboarding experience (within the first 90-days) will improve stickiness by setting consumer expectations for the life of the relationship, making their decision to move to a competitor more difficult. Customers are twice as likely to talk about a ‘bad experience’ than a positive one. Making sure new members

1) understand what they bought

2) know how to use it, and

3) feel they made a good decision, are paramount to building a lasting relationship (aka LifeTime Value).

Prioritize their onboarding efforts around 3 themes:

“Are my doctors in network?”
“Can I get the care I need when I need it?”

Tactics include:
⦁ In-bound call campaigns designed to proactively address potential issues related to members finding and receiving care early (and triage appropriately).
⦁ Update provider directories to make sure network information is accurate and provider finder tools & apps are intuitive.

“How can I be sure that I have coverage?” “Did I buy the right plan (for my needs)?”

Tactics Include:
⦁ Reinforcing coverage by providing digital copies of ID cards immediately upon enrollment.
⦁ Outbound tele-marketing (OBTM) + email campaigns to ensure the member ‘understands what they bought’; highlighting plan features and benefits (aka the ‘after-sale’ sale).

“Do I feel welcome?”
“Do I feel comfortable trusting my health with this company?”
“Does this company know and understand me?”

Tactics Include:
⦁ Simplified onboarding materials (print, online, etc.)
⦁ Preference centers built to capture communication preferences.

2) Leverage Data & Analytics

Smart MA Plans look for ways to leverage data and analytics to better understand their members and gain primary insights in an effort to prioritize outreach and target those members who may be uncertain or dissatisfied with their current product and most likely to leave.

Tactics Include:
⦁ Product propensity model(s) to validate the right fit between member and product.
⦁ Attrition models to determine who is most likely to leave.
⦁ Risk classification/segmentation used to prioritize outreach and guide members to select other options that might be a better fit.

3) Always On Strategy

Great Medicare plans know they have to have a strategy to keep stay in front of the customer throughout the year, not just during selling season. Develop an effective, content-driven brand advertising campaign that can be deployed during OEP utilizing digital and traditional channels ensures you stay relevant and top-of-mind for those that may be looking to make a switch. Don’t go dark – you are still in the game!

5 STAR Plans
For those plans successful enough to have reached 5 STAR status, you are in a unique position to capitalize on consumer dissatisfaction in the marketplace. While other plans will be playing defense in OEP, you get to stay in acquisition mode and monetize this new switcher opportunity.

Tactics include:
⦁ Playbook of ‘market disruption’ tactics ready to deploy as necessary
⦁ Contingency planning to capitalize on poor member experiences in other plans
⦁ Marketing materials that highlight what is means to be 5 STAR, reinforcing your superiority
⦁ Allocating marketing budget dollars in Q1 to capitalize on members seeking to switch competitors in addition to plans

The Medicare Advantage market has crossed 21 million beneficiaries and is expected to move from 35% to 50% market share inside in the next 3-4 years. In this intensely competitive market, now with an extended OEP, customer engagement has never been more important. Give beneficiaries a reason to engage and connect with you…grab their attention, be relevant, and evoke emotion. Create opportunities for one-on-one interactions that reinforce the value of their MA plan purchase, always answering a Medicare customer’s most important question, “What’s in it for me?”

REMEMBER: The cost of acquiring a new member is estimated at 6X the cost of retaining an existing one. Loyalty-based member engagement plays a big role in a health plan’s success…don’t put long-term profitability at risk.


Wunderman Health is a focused marketing agency that amplifies brand awareness, drives acquisition and strengthens customer experiences. Committed to improving health outcomes, we deliver communications that engage and empower consumers and health professionals.
Our strategic ‘readiness’ guidance drives client relevance, our data-driven insights optimize content, and our integrated customer experiences inspire action.
Jim Politte ‖ jim.politte@wunderman.com ‖ 314-590-8390