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Planning Annual Open Enrollment During a Global Pandemic

If you are a Medicare marketer, you are likely deep into Annual Open Enrollment Period (AEP) planning this month. Payers, both big and small, national and regional, HMO and PPO, MAPD and MedSupp, are all developing their go-to-market strategies for October 1, but a lot has happened since October 1, 2019. Let’s take a look at how 2020 might change things:

The audience, ages 65 years and above, you might normally target as prospects are likely not the same people after having lived through a global pandemic. Changes can include:

  •  Feelings of volatility, insecurity, and a heightened sense of mortality
  • Concerns over food, supplies, and access to health care
  •  Isolation from family and friends in order to avoid exposure to the virus
  • Adaptation to new modes of communication, including using FaceTime and Zoom

For Seniors 65+, newspaper readership is up 7% and even more for online press at 15%. As the situation changed, both local and federal government officials provided multiple updates per day. Seniors adopted new ways of consuming this information digitally, in order to stay on top of breaking news. We don’t know whether or not seniors will be gathering in large groups for seminars this fall, particularly in October/November. And if that’s not enough to cause concern for your strategy and creative teams, 2020 is also a presidential election year! We should all plan on seniors being distracted as we move into Oct 1.

You might be wondering what impact this may have on your AEP planning? Consider these things as you finalize your go-to-market strategy:

1. Don’t back away from a strong October

We know there is a cohort of shopping seniors who want to make a plan change, so catch the demand early.

2. Consider the balance between the October pre-election and November post-election periods

Give strong consideration to how you flight media knowing you will not get the DRTV clearance you enjoyed last year.

3. Direct marketing principles that work will still work

Don’t throw away your control creatives. Instead, enhance your campaign with new messages and test, test, test.

4. Be relevant 

This is always key, but AEP21 should have a slightly more overt tone about being there for members when they need it most.

5. Consider photography

With many #stayathome orders in full effect, you may want to err on the side of using images with seniors participating in indoor activities, instead of images with seniors outside and in large groups.

6. Benefits

We know that dental, hearing, and vision benefits are becoming more important as differentiators, but don’t forget to tout Telemedicine this year as well as the Nurse Help Line and any other virtual benefits your plans offer, like case management for disease prevention and disease management.

If you have any questions about how to plan a successful AEP or non-AEP season, feel free to reach out to the experts at Merkle. We have a deep health vertical across payers, providers and pharma. We would love to tackle your next marketing challenge!