Medicare Open Enrollment is right around the corner. It’s formally known as the Annual Election Period, or AEP. However, in layman’s terms, the AEP is commonly known as the Open Enrollment Period. As noted below, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has expanded the OEP, which happens during the first quarter of 2019. In this article, RISE looks at what’s new for the upcoming year to make sure health plans are prepared to hold on to their existing members and attract new ones.

Here are five things health plans need to know before the season kicks off:  

  1. Open enrollment for Medicare health or prescription drug coverage for 2019 will take place Monday, Oct. 15 – Friday, Dec. 7. 
  2. Medicare beneficiaries will also see more choices for Medicare Advantage plans. An additional 600 plans will be available on the the plan finder. In addition to more choices, CMS says that on average, Medicare Advantage premiums will drop by 6 percent to $28.
  3. Most enrollees will also have an opportunity to join Medicare Advantage and Part D plans that have four or more stars. CMS projects that 74 percent of Medicare Advantage enrollees with prescription drug coverage will be in plans with four or five stars in 2019 compared to 73 percent in 2018. The agency estimates that 45 percent of Medicare Advantage plans that offer prescription drug coverage will have an overall rating of four or more stars in 2019. 
  4. New this year: CMS will offer a Medicare Advantage Open Enrollment Period from Jan.1 – March 31, 2019.  It’s essentially a grace period to allow enrollees in a Medicare Advantage Plan (with or without drug coverage) to switch to another Medicare Advantage Plan (with or without drug coverage) or disenroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan and return to Original Medicare (and join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan).
  5. Health Plans must make the best use of this grace period to hold on to all their enrollees and create a seamless onboarding experience for new ones, according to Jim Politte, executive vice president, Business Development, Wunderman Health, in a July column for RISE. “Give beneficiaries a reason to engage and connect with you…grab their attention, be relevant, and evoke emotion,” Politte wrote. "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?'" 

To learn more, join RISE at the 12th Annual Medicare Marketing & Sales Summit, Feb. 25-26, 2019 in Las Vegas. Local and regional health plans will discuss how they addressed the changes for the 2019 annual enrollment period as well as planned strategies for 2020. Click here for more information or to register for the summit.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to clarify the dates of open enrollment.