Anyone in the Medicare industry is familiar with the rush to prepare for the Annual Enrollment Period. What if you could take care of a key sales task during the lock-in period, before AEP ramps up?
Good news — you can! Let’s take a look at three reasons to complete Medicare Advantage contracting outside of AEP.
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1. Quicker & Less Stressful Contract Processing
The month or two leading up to AEP is jam-packed with tasks to prepare, and a key player in AEP prep is carrier and product contracting. It makes sense — new Medicare Advantage plans and benefits are always becoming available, and you want to make sure you’re ready-to-sell what’s hot in your market. Unfortunately, every other agent knows this as well, and contracting everywhere right before AEP is on overload.
Contract sooner in the year to avoid the processing delays and stress of contracting during the AEP rush.
Well, we have a simple tip to help you avoid the processing delays and stress associated with contracting during the AEP rush: contract sooner in the year! By doing so, you not only allow yourself more time, but also the carrier or [FMO](/blog/the-benefits-of-joining-a-top-insurance-fmo “The Benefits of Joining a Top Insurance FMO” more time to process your contract(s). You’ll likely have a significantly less stressful and quicker experience, and more time to really consider which carriers’ products you want to sell. Contracting and certifying to sell Medicare Advantage plans takes time and could take money. To contract and certify with a product you won’t be able to sell well in your market is time wasted and an empty wallet.
2. Increased Sales Opportunities
AEP is certainly an essential time for Medicare insurance agents to increase business and make money. However, there are other Medicare Advantage enrollment periods that offer sales opportunities, too. It’s estimated that the Medicare population is projected to increase by 48 percent by 2030 as the baby-boomer generation ages into Medicare. That’s a lot of Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) sales opportunities!
In addition to IEP sales, Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs) also present chances for sales. SEPs occur when a beneficiary experiences a qualifying life event. Because of the event, they are given a certain amount of time to make changes to their coverage outside of AEP. Agents that sell Medicare Advantage plans will likely find clients who also qualify for an SEP in the dual-eligible market, which encompasses individuals who qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare. Dual-eligible beneficiaries can be enrolled in Dual Eligible Special Needs Plans (D-SNPs), which provide extra benefits, like care coordination and over-the-counter, dental, vision, hearing, and transportation benefits.
Kevin Carpenter, National Director & Broker Strategist at Cigna, had advice for agents regarding the advantage of SEPs.
“So many SEPs are available to leverage and work outside AEP,” he said. “Invest in SEP and Open Enrollment Period (OEP) prospecting and selling opportunities to hone your skills and try new things that can and will propel you to and sustain your success.”
Contracting ahead of AEP gives you time to review all the plans you’re contracted to sell in full.
By supplying your portfolio with Medicare Advantage contracts well ahead of the busy season, you’ll ensure you’re equipped to sell whenever opportunities arise. Contracting ahead of AEP gives you time to review all the plans you’re contracted to sell in full.
Steven Muir, National Broker Sales Director at Anthem, explained, “When you contract outside of AEP you not only have the ability to spend more time getting to know the products, but you also have time to learn the nuances of the various carriers.”
Having this knowledge can prepare you for questions and give you the confidence in your appointments that you need to close more sales!
3. A Packed and Comprehensive Portfolio
We have said this before — it’s important to have a well-rounded Medicare portfolio that includes different plan options. Each client will have different health needs and budgets, so having a variety of Medicare Advantage plans to present gives you a greater chance of closing sales. Now, that’s not to say you should go and contract with every carrier you can. It’s best to have a few solid options for your market area that you understand well.
Having a variety of Medicare Advantage plans to present gives you a greater chance of closing sales.
Muir had some suggestions for agents on how to keep a diverse portfolio.
“MA plans are not one size fits all. Our most successful agents aren’t necessarily the ones who write the most business; instead, they’re the ones who write and retain the most business,” he said. “As a trusted resource to those you serve, it’s important to make sure to guide them towards a plan that fits their needs, rather than trying to squeeze them into the one plan you may be certified for. When you put your customers’ needs first, it builds the trust and loyalty needed to retain your book of business.”
We understand, choosing carriers and products to partner with can seem daunting. To help our partnered agents, Ritter offers free state and region-specific Smart Sheets that supply a snapshot of competitive carriers along with details about their selling potential. This really helps boil all the options down into a manageable listing of selections.
Take It From a Few of Our Partnered Carriers
Don’t just take our word for it. We reached out to a few of our preferred carriers to get their thoughts on the benefits of contracting to sell MA plans outside of AEP.
Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield
“There’s a ton of opportunity to sell outside of AEP… New beneficiaries become eligible for Medicare throughout the year, whether they’re just turning 65 or perhaps going to retire and lose coverage from an employer,” Muir explained.
He also shared, “There are a number of reasons to contract [to sell MA plans] outside of AEP, but one of the main advantages is the onboarding experience. The actual contracting is becoming a simpler process, so the paperwork isn’t necessarily the experience I’m referring to. Instead, it’s the engagement from our local managers who have more availability outside of AEP to make sure you’re familiar with all the tools you need to help make you successful.”
“Contracting to sell MA plans outside of AEP allows an agent proper time to gather all intel on upcoming AEP market drivers for each carrier,” Lauren Knox, National Account Manager at Cigna, said. “Carrier-led deep-dive trainings by market are scheduled in advance prior to the start of AEP. Agents can become an expert on their local market offerings before the chaos of AEP starts. Contracting outside of AEP also allows time to engage with Cigna’s local market broker sales representatives. Building this connection is imperative in gaining the support agents need to be successful.”
Carpenter added, “Most brokers, new to the business, didn’t wake up and decide they wanted to market and sell Medicare Advantage were gifted with an unlimited amount of leads, nope. It took weeks, months of testing and learning what works and what doesn’t … mining for opportunities to fill their prospect pipelines in order to have a moderately successful AEP. Contracting outside of AEP gives you time to find a process/system/lead sources that work for [you] … earning valuable knowledge with every win and loss along the way.”
Remember: a contract is a contract. No matter when you acquire it, the value is the same in April as it is in August. So, why wouldn’t you work ahead of your competition and prepare your contracts and sales strategy before AEP?
We encourage you to start contracting as soon as you can. Our Ritter sales and licensing teams are available to help you select contracts and get them processed. Just complete a simple and free registration on RitterIM.com, then let the contracting begin!