Not everything that happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas! We’re back from last week’s 2022 Medicare Marketing & Sales Summit at Caesars Palace with a summary of what we learned during key conference sessions.

Keynote on secrets to success: Collaboration and confidence

Keynote Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger kicked off the first day of the conference with a classic play, turning a failure into a success. The real-life inspiration behind the ‘93 hit movie “Rudy” used a technical glitch as a point to his philosophy of life.

“That’s what it is all about,” the Notre Dame grad said as he thanked the tech crew for fixing his intro video. “Collaboration is key to success.”

The crowd of 400 attendees eagerly leaned in as the famed underdog began his promo with a personal touch, his complete ignorance of his current Medicare coverage.

“Medicare, Medicaid, I don’t know what I have,” he said, noting he was not alone in his medical coverage muddle. “I have no idea if I have good stuff or bad stuff. But I know I’m paying for it! They call and I hang up because I’m so confused.”

But he was determined, as with anything he has tackled in his life, to figure it out with the help of others.

“I failed most of my life, but I never gave up,” said the 73-year-old former insurance agent. “We failed before I came up here, but we made it. We worked together.”

He continued to inspire the audience and offer insight into a senior’s view of the health care system, throughout his rousing speech.

“There are people being inspired by your attitude right now and you can help them,” he said. “If you know how to collaborate in this business you are going to be so big.”

Rudy set the tone for the following sessions to help participants prepare for changes in the industry.

“You already have the skill and talent to be here,” he said. “Get better each day and focus on what you should do and you won’t believe where you will be in 20 years. The impossible is possible when you think right. And hopefully, with that attitude, I will understand my Medicaid and Medicare.”

Deft Research shares trends in Medicare shopping and switching

George Dippel, executive vice president, client services, Deft Research, provided an overview of the findings from the research firm’s 2022 Medicare Shopping and Switching Study.


The national study surveyed nearly 3,400 seniors with a 2021 Medicare Advantage (MA) plan, a 2021 MedSupp plan, or Original Medicare Only for 2021. It aimed to understand how seniors’ shop for health plans, their experiences with the entire process, and what it means for consumerism.

Among the trends:

  • One out of nine seniors changed their insurance in some way during the AEP.
  • The market is moving quickly to MA. Nationally, the MA penetration rate rose this AEP from 44 percent to 45.4 percent.
  • The number of seniors who switch plans has decreased over the past six years even though they have more product choice.
  • The strongest drivers for plan or carrier switching are high monthly premiums and supplemental benefit coverage issues.

“Most seniors do not want to invest the time to consider new Medicare coverage unless they absolutely need to,” Dippel said. “MA members continue to switch at slightly higher rates than their MedSupp counterparts. However, the figures are slowly converging, which is an indicator to marketers that everyone is fair game and both types of consumers are looking.”

The large number of plans available to seniors also causes confusion as Rudy noted during his keynote presentation. Most seniors don’t know which plan they have, Dippel said. If there were only four options, there is a good chance seniors could determine which one worked for them. But with all the choices, it’s difficult to make a change when you don’t know the best option, he said.

Panel: Keys to master the member experience

Steven Selinsky, vice president of product strategy, marketing, and community outreach, HAP, moderated a panel on key drivers to master the member experience with Archie Dey, director of consumer experience and insights, SCAN Health Plan; Caitlin Donovan, global head,  
Uber Health; and Kristy Croom Tucker, director of member experience & acquisition, BayCare Health Plans.

There are three elements that Dey relies on when communicating with the 65+ community:

  • Agency aspect: Respect the agency of older adults
  • Personalization: Tailor your approach to where they are coming from, who they are in their lives, and their preferences
  • Reassurance: Everyone wants to be reassured that they have made the right decision and have help for making future changes.

For example, Dey said that during the pandemic, his team reached out to members just to let them know they feel their struggle and were working to fix any supply or work shortage that led to longer wait times.

“That’s it and it was really appreciated,” Dey said. “Sometimes they don’t want the problem solved, just acknowledged.”

Selinsky said that this year his organization has made its net promoter score (NPS) a company-wide goal.  “Our NPS was in the high 50s and now in the 60s and it’s been a real effort. But it has also shared across the organization the importance that each individual shares in creating a great user experience.”

Other suggestions from the panel to ensure a positive member experience and retaining a good Star rating:

  • Put triggers in place for a customer service intervention when a client has called a few times in a week or has running questions about dental and vision benefits. “We know and reach out to them to solve the problem,” Dey said. “It’s the basics of relationship building. Be nice, reach out and when they especially need you, be there.”
  • Use data to your advantage. Uber is known for its consumer experience and the importance of member engagement, with retention being the goal of each interaction. To engage your clients, have a unified engagement platform with flexibility to meet members where they are. “There is a lot of data to consume but make it actionable data to intervene and then create a delightful experience in what would have otherwise been a complaint,” Donovan said. “Leverage the data to anticipate and solve a problem before there is one.”

Panel hot topic discussion: Fallout from the “Joe Namath” Medicare commercials

A topic that was brought up at nearly every session was the national television commercials encouraging seniors to switch their Medicare plan. Selinsky returned to the stage to discuss the issue with Naomi Irvin, chief of staff-government markets, Blue Cross NC.

National carriers have paid for commercials featuring celebrities, including Joe Namath, that urge seniors to call a 1-800 number for information about plans that may offer better benefits. As a result, thousands of seniors have unknowingly switched plans, only finding out weeks later when their new identification cards arrived in the mail.

Irvin’s regional carrier lost and then reinstated more than 600 members who had no intention of changing plans. “If this is not on your radar, it should be,” Irvin said.

Two big issues that Blue Cross confronted this year included the number of members who were embarrassed that this happened and didn’t want to change back or make things worse, and members who were trying to get reinstated but were unable to find the right customer service points.

To counteract the impact of the national commercials and third-party marketing, Irvin suggests connecting with your members with as much local advertising and community outreach you can, from contacting local news to placing advertisements in all major media outlets. More than anything, she said, stay true to who you are and meet your members where they are. The national commercials influence will eventually fade and seniors will need to know who to turn to.

“This Joe Namath thing won’t work for everyone, and it will catch up to those who are leveraging it,” Irvin said.

Regulatory challenges: Understanding changes that impact sales and marketing

While reading regulations is no picnic, it’s important to understand changes made by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), said Deborah Marine, JD, compliance officer, SummaCare, who joined Irvin for a regulatory update session.

One challenge is that the burden is on the plan to interpret the Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) and Medicare Communication and Marketing Guidelines (MCMG) correctly. The CFR is the source of truth, so when in doubt, speakers said to refer to the CFR. Although the MCMG does not capture all the information in the CFR, it does provide examples that can guide your understanding for marketing materials.

Some of the new guidelines can be confusing and you may need to consult multiple sources to determine compliance.

There also can be penalties if a plan interprets rules or guidance incorrectly. “With all of these challenges, collaboration is especially important,” Irvin said. “Have the legal and marketing departments in lock step, communicating properly, and make a compliant piece of material.”

Bottom line, if you aren’t sure, ask. Submit questions to when requirements are unclear. However, be careful who submits this email and make sure that legal and marketing agree on the content. If CMS misunderstands your request, you will need to abide by its final answer.

Leadership advice on Medicare marketing and sales in a post-COVID world

Disruption has been a constant as the industry rides out COVID regulations and changes. Being able to pivot quickly and evolve has been essential to surviving in a post-COVID world.

Dustin VanDuine, director of new business sales, Health Alliance Plan, Barbara Sandoval, manager, Medicare field sales, Providence Health Plans, and Nicole Norder, senior insights product manager, Unite Us, discussed what has worked for them during a leadership panel on adapting to the shift in Medicare marketing and sales to capture business and prepare for unknown COVID variables.

Their tips:

  • Have the right customer relationship management (CRM) tools and track where you are spending your dollars and attention, to keep you afloat when unforeseen issues flood your company and your members’ experience. We are tagging info at every point,” VanDuine said, noting that harvesting the information is just the start. “It takes time to do it right and to know what it is telling you and interpreting that correctly.”
  • Use the data in a personal way and make sure all team members have as much data as they can to retain members. Health Alliance Plan emails a retention notice to its agents weekly so they can know if a member has slipped away and can act accordingly. By empowering agents with this information, the organization has brought back 40 percent of its members since the last OEP.
  • Once you have the members attention, messages need to resonate and be more specialized and personalized than traditional marketing. “It’s really that personal touch,” Sandoval said. “Having their trusted advisors, whether it be their representative or their broker, reach out to them is important.”

Non-health organizations, such as banks and big box stores, have gone to a level of specialized personalization that the health care industry has yet to figure out.

“Members are going to expect a level of experience that they are getting elsewhere,” Sandoval said. “People are coming to the table with more diverse needs that have to be fulfilled for them to feel satisfied with the plan. We are shifting our focus now. If we’re not able to retain members, it’s a moot point. We are at the beginning of looking at what that looks like.”

  • Use the data to understand what is working in the moment and continually mine it for how it can work for you as well as your members’ benefit. “As things continue to evolve, people’s comfort levels and ways they want to engage with us is going to evolve,” Norder said. “Follow the data and trends and know what is working. Pivot to change what you are doing to meet the member where they are.

About the author

Kimberley McGee is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas.