Corporate Insight recently attended the RISE Medicare Marketing and Sales Summit in sunny San Diego, California. Healthcare industry leaders and innovators gathered to discuss the latest trends and best practices in the Medicare space, in particular discussing ways to increase and retain membership through marketing, sales and the member experience. Here are our top takeaways from the conference:

The Medicare population is not one size fits all

It is easy to think of the Medicare population as a single entity, but it is best not to. Speakers suggested various ways to dissect this demographic to better understand their needs and wants, such as the “fit and healthy Boomer” versus the “Boomer with chronic conditions.” We can also separate them into those that have Original Medicare only and those with Medicare Advantage. The latter group can be further siloed into those eligible for D-SNPs or are veterans. Speakers also referred to the concept of a younger Medicare consumer, who is tech savvy and familiar with social media. This group likely has different preferences than those who are not as digitally involved. Another distinct group to pay attention to are those who are retiring late and therefore joining Medicare past the age of 65.

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The TV ad days are dwindling: Boomers now engage with their health insurers through other channels

Marketing specialists from multiple health insurers noted that TV ads are not as effective as the past and no longer drive a considerable amount of engagement with the firms. With a TV ad, viewers must quickly jot down a phone number—in time, before the next ad shows up. In addition, viewers generally do not watch TV ads, opting to scroll on their phone, change the channel or complete a quick task like making a cup of coffee. To promote plans, firms are focusing more on online channels such as Facebook posts—the social media platform most popular among Boomers—or Google and Bing searches, where users can access a convenient click-to-call phone number.

Also, firms should pay attention to communication preferences of their members. While direct mail overall remains a top communication channel, Jamee Sunga—Product Director at Bloom Insurance—noted that in Los Angeles, white Boomers prefer text, while Hispanic Boomers prefer phone calls with a Spanish-speaking agent. Chinese Boomers opt for paper mail, as it is common for parents to rely on their English-speaking children to help take care of letters that come in through the mail. As such, it is critical for insurers to meet their members where they are.

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Plan benefits are a competitive edge for firms, but members’ understanding of benefits is also equally important

Firms at the RISE Summit noted that as many Medicare Advantage plans offer zero-dollar premiums, they compete with other insurers regarding plan benefits. Items like over the counter (OTC) benefits, Part B rebates and the out-of-pocket maximum amount are standout factors. In Florida, pet food was a major selling point for Medicare plans. Even with non-zero dollar premium plans, speakers note that consumers find benefits and rebates to be a more important factor than the plan’s cost.

At the same time, members need to have a solid grasp on their plan and the associated benefits. Speakers pointed to the need of educating shoppers about the pros and cons of each plan, such as that if they choose a specific plan for the OTC benefit, they may be giving up another factor, such as the network status of their primary care physician or low cost of a prescription. Additionally, after members are enrolled in the plan, firms need to ensure that they are aware of all the benefits they have access to, how to use them and are using them.

Our healthcare research team looks forward to seeing how payors and providers continue to improve their digital experiences. Learn more about CI’s subscription research service in the Medicare space, and check out our Insights section for more trends and best practices in healthcare.

Stephanie Chan

Stephanie Chan is an Analyst on CI's healthcare team.