This post is part of a series sponsored by AgentSync.
With pumpkin spice lattes around the corner, we can almost feel that it̵7;s going to be a very busy time of year for carriers, agencies, MGAs/MGUs. Yes, you guessed it, we’re talking about Medicare’s open enrollment season – October 15th through December 7th.
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’s open enrollment season, fear not. We’re here to guide 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’s open enrollment season is the opportunity for Medicare beneficiaries to join the Medicare Advantage plan that best fits their needs.
It’s important to note: Currently, only beneficiaries already enrolled in a Medicare plan can switch between or into 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 raise awareness of the importance of the open enrollment season and the ability to switch between plans. By 2021, one in eight Medicare beneficiaries — 8.3 million people — chose individual plans under open enrollment, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Chances are, the number of beneficiaries taking advantage of this registration period will only increase in 2022.
So carriers, agencies and MGA/MGU are better prepared to manage the business.
Best practices for operators, agencies and MGA/MGU
Although Medicare’s open enrollment season continues to hover around a participation rate of about 10 percent, there are still millions of elderly and disabled Americans looking for support as they switch between Medicare plans. And it’s simply not something that carriers, agencies or MGAs/MGUs can ignore.
When done right, the open enrollment season is the opportunity for these companies to prove they’re a well-oiled machine, gain leverage with producers, and help Medicare beneficiaries live their very best lives. But when done wrong, the open enrollment season can be messy, stressful and expensive.
We are of the opinion that Medicare season should always be done right. Here we present some of the best practices that can help your business succeed.
1. Plan for Medicare open enrollment well in advance
To handle the influx of business, carriers, agencies and MGAs/MGUs generally need to bring in new producers for the open enrollment season. It may not sound like a big deal, but it is, and under no circumstances should be left to the last minute.
Recruiting new producers is always difficult. After all, the producers have no shortage of companies to work with. On top of that, Medicare’s open enrollment season makes recruiting even more difficult because any company that has a hand in Medicare Advantage products needs support during this time. So the competition is high.
But the reality is that these producers will function in something of a temporary role. Carriers, agencies and MGAs/MGUs need the support of these producers to get through the open enrollment season but will not have enough work to keep them busy throughout the year. So they come on board just before Medicare opens enrollment and come on board 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 stage for a successful open enrollment season.
2. Build a positive experience for producers
Medicare open enrollment is annual. It happens every year. Sure, you may not have enough work to keep Medicare open enrollment onboarding producers active year-round, but you know you’ll need 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 return year after year.
Consider this: A carrier must bring in hundreds of producers to handle Medicare’s open enrollment season. This carrier did not begin planning for Medicare open enrollment in advance 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 prepare for Medicare’s open enrollment season, there isn’t much incentive for those producers to go back to the same carrier. Instead, they may choose to work with the carrier’s competitor. After all, the producer heard from peers that the competitor has a nice and time-saving onboard and offboard process.
Keeping producers happy is key to ensuring carriers, agencies and MGAs/MGUs don’t have to start recruiting producers from scratch every registration period. So remember that even if these producers are only employed in a seasonal capacity, keeping them happy can lead to annual success.
3. Use licensing software to save time and prevent regulatory action
It’s clear that Medicare’s open enrollment season can be a very busy time for all parties involved. It’s no surprise, then, that human error can complicate onboarding and offboarding processes.
But onboarding and offboarding producers come with a whole host of regulatory requirements for each state where 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 action. Not good, if you ask us.
Fortunately, carriers, agencies and MGAs/MGUs can avoid these mistakes by using licensing programs. Licensing software helps save time and prevent human error when onboarding and disembarking manufacturers in a few ways:
- Flag gaps in producer licenses during the onboarding process. This allows companies to correct licensing errors before it’s time for a producer to sell.
- Reduce paperwork by digitizing the onboard and offboard processes. Trust us, less paper is good for your sanity, your producer’s sanity and the survival of the environment. A win, win, win.
- Instead of having to remember to lay off, in some cases, thousands of producers, licensing programs allow companies to create a termination date that automates the offboarding process once the date is passed.
- Maintain records and license information for audit and market testing. That way, staff don’t have to retroactively sort through documentation to retrieve key data when it’s time for the exam.
In addition to preventing regulatory action, software licensing has the added benefit of improving the producer experience. Producers want onboarding and offboarding to be as easy, fast and painless as possible. By saving data for autofill, producers don’t have to reset basic information at multiple points. In our experience, repeating information form by form and year by year is one of the things producers say detracts from their overall experience. Because licensing programs streamline licensing processes and flag potential gaps in licensing, it can be key to creating a positive producer experience, driving producer loyalty and encouraging producers to return year after year.
Are you ready for open enrollment?
We know it can feel daunting to prepare for Medicare’s open enrollment season. After all, once you’ve finally wound down from last year’s enrollment season, it’s just about time to start ramping up for this year. Fortunately, following these important best practices can be the stepping stones to successful registration seasons for years to come. If you’re a producer, make sure you take the time to read our producer best practices section as well. AgentSync can help you scale for Medicare open enrollment, so schedule a demo with us.
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