This post is part of a series sponsored by AgentSync.
While Medicare is often only part of a larger industry, for a few days it was the infamous belle of the insurance ball in the glittering ̵1; from light or sweat depending on whether it’s day or night – city of Las Vegas.
The inaugural Medicarians event, June 6 to 8, brought together both MedSup’s and Medicare Advantage’s sides of the industry to discuss the challenges of serving a rapidly aging boomer population. From emerging technologies to regulatory challenges, there was general agreement that insurance is ultimately a grassroots enterprise and will need people-based solutions as much as technological innovations.
Although it is the core of Medicare’s business to cover the business of aging, the age of the company was also a hot topic of discussion in sessions, with the average age of the producer population growing older and the extended life of Americans both recurring as topics of discussion.
Another recurring theme: Taking a strong digital approach is essential in the changing Medicare market, but keeping manufacturers happy, engaged and free to work with consumers will continue to be at the heart of Medicare – and the industry at large.
Life Improvements – Helps Medicare members live better lives
From the outset, the Medicare conference noted the potential of emerging technologies to change both healthcare and the experience of aging in the United States.
Jay Weintraub, CEO of Medicarians, welcomed the participants and opened the conference with an introduction by Dag Kittlaus, whose CV includes leading the development of Siri, the app that is now everywhere in Apple products.
While Kittlaus was full of hilarious anecdotes – Steve Jobs called him 34 days in a row to present Apple’s acquisition of the Siri app – $ 1 billion in app development earned during the 24-hour first sale of the iPhone 4S – he was told he would get what any time he needed development without restrictions, but “if you do not make it work, I will kill you” – the tone was serious when he turned to his own cancer diagnosis and experience in healthcare and hospitals.
Kittlaus’ time on stage was transformed from the app entrepreneur rockstar to acknowledging that his unique background gave him perspective, vision and the means to actually deal with some of the pressure on the healthcare system. He introduced the app he has in production, Riva, which uses light to measure the blood pulse wavelength, which in principle makes it possible to take blood pressure several times a day with just the flashlight function on one’s phone.
“Heart disease is the leading killer in the world, and yet [the devices we use to manage it] are built on hundreds of years old technology such as stethoscopes, says Kittlaus. “Imagine dealing with conditions like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure with data, making it available to people and their doctors.” Page note: We have discussed this not so distant technology and its impact on the industry before.
Also among the visionaries who asked Medicare-affiliated insurance companies to dream bigger was Ashley Tyrner, CEO and founder of FarmBoxRX, a company that partners with Medicare Advantage plans to send plan members medically tailored meals and food preparations.
With culturally specific options and plans built to address dietary restrictions, Tyrner argued that because Advantage members often have lower incomes, food benefits can play a significant role in enrolling and maintaining the program’s future.
Regulatory Outlook for Medicare
Participants were concerned about the entry into force of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rule on June 28, 2022. The rule requires carriers and agencies to keep recordings of all Medicare Advantage and Part D “marketing” conversations.
As lobbyist Janet Trautwein of the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU) was quick to point out, some whims have yet to be resolved as the rule approaches its effective date.
Call registry maintenance
As anyone who has received a “full voicemail” message can attest that audio files take up space. So it is impractical to store records indefinitely. And the controls for who can access, review or review the voicemails lack clarity.
What is marketing?
“‘Marketing’ covers a variety of sins” – someone in business, probably
The reality is that “marketing” has a variety of meanings and interpretations, and an insurance company’s existing customers may need plan maintenance, but a broad interpretation of the rule may apply if you stop discussing Medicare options with your client – even if it was not the original the purpose of the call, or even if it was client-initiated – you may need to record it.
While much of the conference discussed how to drive digital app use, sessions and discussions about adopting voicemail often touched on the benefits of meeting in person for a wet signature, as personal discussions do not require audio recordings.
Undoubtedly, when the CMS issues a rule to address these dark areas and the rule reaches full implementation, this will be an area ripe for digital disruption.
Get Medicare funds
Despite half-hearted predictions that the Medicare Fund will dry up over the next five to seven years, only the NAHU presentation contained serious comments on possible corrections. Trautwein argued that failure to address the critical welfare infrastructure would be “political suicide” for both sides of the aisle.
Agents into the future
Many of the conference techsters strongly aimed to help Medicare-affiliated companies and their manufacturers adapt and prospect for new business. These are the topics that everyone still wants to talk about – exploration, maximizing sales, etc. Still, several panels and discussion topics leaned towards more serious cross-industry themes.
Medicare may be a niche and exceptional part of the insurance industry, but it is not an exception to the demographic changes in the nation at all. When boomers retire, Medicare has experienced an abundance of enrollees. Similarly, agents leave the industry, often after decades of field work, and often without a clear successor or replacement to manage their books.
At AgentSync, we are all for automation and digital processes when they make sense, but as our CEO and co-founder Niji Sabharwal advocated from the stage at the conference, Medicare’s decisions are too important for consumers to just throw everything to the robots. The nature of current industry alternatives means that health history, personal financial situation and even the county you live in all have a significant impact on which care alternatives work best for you. And people generally want to talk through their options with knowledgeable experts.
Among the proposed solutions to the impending producer shortage (and consumers’ ever-increasing service expectations) were some of the more exciting:
- One company proposed bringing in new patients through a journalistic, story-based perspective that makes carrier data collection a seamless experience for new members, who may take an hour or more to tell their personal story. The company claimed to raise policyholders’ interest rates and collect more accurate and detailed information to improve plan placement.
- Some startups are dedicated to moving data collected by carriers into the hands of producers so that they can serve customers more accurately while reducing the repetition of data collection that many consumers find nasty. Among the challenges they face: HIPAA and financial abuse of the elderly.
- A panel discussion revolved around the idea of recruiting agents with different demographics to make inroads in sales in different and growing communities.
- Another panel aimed at best practices for producers to communicate their business book and create an exit strategy. Among the participants, this was a major concern, as agency staff spoke of policyholders struggling to find service after a producer’s death, or of concerns about data compliance after being denied access to a deceased producer’s home office.
Overall, there was broad agreement over sessions that producers are both the pain point and the answer to many problems with retention and satisfaction: “Brokers’ net promoter results – NPS – for those who age in Medicare are negative 50. Even for people who have retired. For a while. their score will only reach a negative 15, says Barry Streit, CEO of Barry Streit Consulting. “At this point, drug dealers have higher NPS scores than Medicare brokers.”
Still, technology can put more customer data in the hands of its Medicare manufacturer, and streamlined processes can give the same manufacturers more face-to-face time with customers. More interpersonal time can swing producers from strict sales roles to service roles. Instead of placing as many people in policies as possible, technology-enabled producers whose operators have adapted their incentives to maintain and build relationships can focus more on helping provide the right coverage, stimulating health outcomes for members and engaging in long-term health policy services.
If happy producers are the key to happy Medicare sign-ups, see how AgentSync can make your producers’ introductory experience a joy this Medicare registration season