For a lot of Medicare agents, AEP is the most stressful time of year. You're trying to service your entire book of business in less than 8 weeks, all while managing to keep some sort of work-life balance.
This year, AEP may feel even more stressful with another round of CMS compliance changes including a more involved disclaimer, 48-hour SOA rule, and stricter rules on marketing vs communication materials.
No matter how many clients you have, here are some ideas to lighten your load, automate some tasks, and ensure you service all your clients during enrollment season.
Tip #1: Have a Compliance Game Plan
Several new compliance changes will be going into effect on October 1st as we begin marketing and selling health and drug plans for CY2024.
If you need some education on these compliance rules, please check out our upcoming webinar on September 21, 2023 at 2pm CT with Compliance Officer, Chalen Jackson.
Ensure you have a full understanding of these new compliance rules, including the new disclaimer:
Disclaimer: We do not offer every plan available in your area. Currently we represent [insert number of organizations] organizations which offer [insert number of plans] products in your area. Please contact Medicare.gov, 1‑800‑MEDICARE, or your local State Health Insurance Program to get information on all of your options.”
And do not miss the 48-hour SOA rule:
- Agents must obtain a scope of appointment no less than 48 hours prior to presenting and enrolling a beneficiary into a plan.
- SOAs are considered valid until used in the presentation of a plan, or for 12 months from the signature date, whichever comes first.
- There are two exceptions to the 48 hour rule; the 48 hour rule is waived if a beneficiary is in the last 4 days of their valid enrollment period or if they are an in-person walk-in appointment.
You can get a complete overview of the 2024 compliance guidelines in our Compliance Hub.
Also, we include a new compliance tip each week in the Compliance Corner section of our email newsletter.
Example of Compliance Corner in our weekly email newsletter
Tip #2: Personalize Your Approach (If You Can)
If you have a smaller book of business – say 250 clients or less – I'd recommend a more intimate approach. A few hundred clients are still manageable, so you can keep things personalized without needing to schedule spa appointments to keep your head on your shoulders.
Keep in mind that 250 clients is just an estimate. Some agents feel more comfortable with 50 clients, and beyond that, they need some strategies for scaling up and automating some of their processes.
Other agents are perfectly comfortable handling 500 clients or more without any extra help. Agents who can handle that many with no support are pretty rare, but it happens!
Here are a few things agents with smaller books of business do to offer personalized service before and during AEP:
Laura: “A few years ago, I had the office assistant print off a list of all my active, existing clients. I went through and personally connected with all of those folks.”
Chase: “When my book of business was smaller, I had the office assistant send out a postcard to all my current clients saying, ‘Hey, it’s AEP season, if you want me to reevaluate your drug plan, contact me.’ I had an excel sheet, and I marked off who I contacted and just made sure I at least reached out to everyone once or twice throughout the season.”
Being able to personally handle each and every client is a great way to nurture your relationship and ward off any other agents who might try to steal your business from you.
Tip #3: Start Communicating in September
I like using the last half of September and the beginning of October to communicate with my clients. I encourage them to create a Medicare.gov account if they haven't already. That makes running accurate, quick drug comparisons a lot faster.
Having the name of their current drug plan and medication list (available in their Medicare account) increases our efficiency tenfold.
I've even seen some agencies require their clients to have a Medicare.gov in order to receive service.
It's up to you how strict you want to be, but being efficient during AEP is critical, and having your clients do a little prep can go a long way.
During September, I also lighten my load a bit. October and November are going to be very busy, so it helps my mental state to scale down how many renewal appointments I'm doing. I need that calm before the storm. It helps.
Tip #4: Hire seasonal help/interns
At our local agency, we have 2-3 interns every year assist with drug comparisons and manning the phones. We call them Agent Contact Representatives (ACRs).
Their help is critical during AEP!
If you're interested in hiring seasonal help or interns, check out our full guide: Level Up: Medicare Agent Internship Guide (Call Scripts Included)
Tip #5: Use a CRM
I personally use AgencyBloc for my CRM, which makes it easy to access information about my clients. I can run a report on anything!
Say a certain drug plan is having a big change this fall and a lot of clients are going to have a much higher premium. I can easily run a report to single out all of these clients.
You can also do Sales Seminars for groups of clients like this, which allows you to educate on a plan and complete enrollments all in the same setting.
Learn more about that here: How to Hold a Medicare Advantage Sales Seminar
If you're in the market for a CRM, I highly recommend AgencyBloc as it's tailored to our industry, and it has a lot of functionality.
Check out this article from AgencyBloc for more AEP tips: How to Save 100+ Hours This OEP/AEP Season
You can also utilize the CRM in MedicareCENTER, which is free to contracted agents here at New Horizons. It doesn't have all the robust features of AgencyBloc, but you can still do a lot, including storing client information, recording and storing calls, and creating reminders for follow-up.
To streamline your tasks, you can set reminders to ensure nothing falls through the cracks during AEP.
Tip #6: Prep for AEP All Year Long
AEP is all about service – it's ensuring your clients are in the best plan for the following year. However, over the years, I've noticed some clients feel like I'm just trying to sell them something new during AEP.
I don't want to spend a ton of time making phone calls with clients who would prefer to be left alone.
To avoid this, I tell everyone during our renewal calls to mark their calendar for AEP. I leave it up to my clients to reach out to me so that I only help people who want to be helped.
Tip #7: Use MedicareCENTER For Your SOAs
During AEP, you need to have a system for your Scope of Appointments (SOAs).
In MedicareCENTER, you can text, email, or print the SOA for a wet signature.
Example of the text a client gets when you send a scope through MedicareCENTER
I would recommend the text or email option since MedicareCENTER will store it for you indefinitely. Here's how you send an SOA in MedicareCENTER (it's painless!):
Either way, ensure you have a systematic approach for handling your scopes!
Tip #8: Consider an Online Scheduling System
If it makes sense for your business, consider giving your clients the chance to schedule their own appointment with you online.
You can integrate it with your calendar to ensure you're available at the listed times. This can save you a lot of time and give clients an easier way to get their appointment on the schedule.
Tip #9: Use Pre-Created Marketing Materials
Take advantage of marketing materials that have already been created!
Our team has gone through the process of getting several marketing materials approved by CMS. You can find those here:
I also recommend identifying which Part D and Medicare Advantage carriers are generally the most competitive in your area and see what marketing materials they have available.
Most carriers will have easy-to-use marketing materials for you, including social media posts, flyers, and postcards. With several large carriers, you can even customize and order printed materials directly from the agent portal.
Keep in mind that materials classified as "communications" don't have to be approved by CMS.
Communications vs. Marketing
You are free to use materials that provide information to current or prospective enrollees. However, if there's any intent to draw a beneficiary's attention to a plan or plans or influence their decision-making process, it's considered "marketing."
Content that's considered "marketing" is any information about plan benefits, ranking standards, or rewards and incentives.
Example: An agency commercial or mailer states: “Call us to hear about plans that can provide hearing and dental benefits, zero-dollar monthly premiums, and can even lower your Medicare Part B costs.”
Marketing or Communication? Marketing. While a specific plan is not mentioned by name, the commercial’s intent is to draw the beneficiary to a MA plan or plans and the content addresses plan premium, cost-sharing, and benefit information for plans being represented and sold by the third party.
Tip #10: Get Some Exercise!
My last tip is to try to stay active during AEP.
A few years ago, I was so overwhelmed during AEP that my wife ended up buying me a treadmill so I wouldn't rip my hair out. It helped!
I'm no doctor, but the Mayo Clinic explains exercise increases endorphins, the feel-good neurotransmitter. In turn, physical activity helps you feel less stressed and can improve your mood.
Even if it's just a 20-minute walk in the middle of the day, try to get some exercise in during AEP.
AEP can be stressful, but I've found that every year, it gets better for me. I get through it and come up with new ways to improve for the following year.
For a couple more sales-related tips leading up to AEP, be sure to check out John's article and video: 2 Tips to Help You Through AEP