If there’s one thing we can agree on this year, it’s that our “new normal” is a fast-changing reality for AEP marketing. Financial burdens, heightened health risks, social unrest, and anxiety over how long the impact of the coronavirus pandemic might persist have greatly shifted (and shifted again) people’s sense of what’s important. 

How much should marketers be changing strategy? After all, AEP marketing is about “the market”, and the market looks a lot different than it did pre-COVID-19. In recent months we’ve been forced to break most of our routines and form new ones. Change is becoming less hard, more normal. But what will that mean moving forward?

Perhaps the willingness among our audiences to change has changed. Now we have to ask, “What exactly will it take to move people to consider their Medicare insurance plan options?” In this Change Economy, where should we focus? Here’s our take.

Focus on value in the AEP

Supplemental benefits have driven Medicare-eligible seniors to comparison shop during the AEP. In recent years, over-the-counter (OTC) offerings meant unprecedented growth in MA plans. Now—as providers find ways to address social determinants of health—newly introduced benefits, such as in-home support services, support for caregivers of enrollees, and therapeutic massage, are sure to mean even more scrutiny (a la comparison shopping) in the months ahead. Why? Because it all comes down to value.

Now more than ever—as unemployment swells, forcing millions into early retirement—people will want to know how they’ll be able to afford healthcare costs while living on a fixed budget. They’re worried about finances and need reassurance that buying into an MA plan is money well spent. Comparison charts and repetition of a singular value proposition will do the heavy lifting.  

Focus on preparedness in the AEP

No one planned for this global pandemic—we’re all in crisis mode and some seniors now face added anxiety due to delays obtaining Medicare coverage. What’s more, this 65-and-older population has been hardest hit by COVID-19, with the CDC sighting severe outcomes for this age group, including deaths, intensive care unit admissions, and hospital admissions.

But it’s not time to panic. It’s time to plan.

In our AEP marketing, making sure we address what it means to be prepared for Medicare can help ease worries, build confidence, and support change. People need to know they are getting the right plan for their circumstances. And, since most seniors consider reviewing plan details as unpleaseant as getting a colonoscopy, why not make the process fun for all? Quizzes, checklists, and online resources are all helpful, engaging tools for their learning, and yours.

Focus on stability in the AEP

Aging in to Medicare or switching MA plans can be fraught with daunting decisions under the best of circumstances. Consider the reality that many MA plan shoppers are doing so out of duress (due to unexpected unemployment and forced retirement as explained above). They need answers, but may not even know what questions to ask since the learning curve is steep and their previous healthcare coverage, employer-provided. All the uncertainty in the market will need to be met with stability.

Make sure you highlight your company’s values—and assure customers that your values are unwaivering, always. By building trust during this time of heightened anxiety, you can more easily guide next steps—and more successfully help seniors get the answers (and the plan) they need. Ask probing questions, clearly outline timelines and next steps, and make sure your team is at the ready every step of the way.

Our new Change Economy is a time to stay focused on what works. Shout your value, show your support and guidance, and be there for people when they need it the most.

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