On May 29, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the Contract Year 2021 Agent and Broker Compensation Rate, Referral/Finder’s Fees, Submissions, and Training and Testing Requirements. While the compensation rate increases are a welcome update for agents/brokers, it is important to explore these changes in the context of COVID-19 and how the standard Medicare selling practices will not be sufficient for the 2021 Annual Enrollment Period (AEP).
How can Agents/Brokers Navigate Medicare Sales During COVID-19?
Here are 6 tactics organizations and sales teams should consider to adjust strategies for COVID-19.
- Know and follow your state and local government requirements around stay-at-home orders and mask wearing. As healthcare leaders, organizations have the unique opportunity to position themselves as the go-to resource on the latest state and local mandates for the community, beneficiaries, and sales teams (internal and external). Partnerships with key network provider groups can emphasize this position.
- Invest in systems that allow for virtual meetings; conduct appropriate training and education well in advance of the start of AEP. Training and education don’t stop with sales teams. Organizations should make sure that beneficiaries understand the intricacies of a virtual sales meeting and provide support throughout the entire process to keep technology frustrations at bay. In addition, organizations must remember to establish compliant expectations for recorded virtual meetings and submission and/or record retention as needed for sales oversight programs to remain effective.
- Modify seminar strategies to limit participation and allow for safe social distancing. Does your organization and/or sales team rely on vigorous seminar strategies? GHG recommends evaluating seminar locations now to understand if the space will allow for a minimum 6 feet of distance between attendees. Providing this assurance demonstrates that beneficiary protection is top of mind. Organizations may also want to schedule multiple seminar sessions throughout the day to allow for the potential need to cap attendees per seminar because of limited space.
- Be prepared to move seminars to a virtual setting. The threat of a COVID-19 second wave in the fall is real and may lead to another round of economic shutdowns. If your “plan A” includes group seminars, make sure your “plan B” can move these seminars to a virtual setting.
- Arm field sales representatives and agents/brokers with face masks and hand sanitizer to distribute at one-on-one meetings and seminars. Bonus if the face masks and hand sanitizers include your branding or logo.
- Agents/brokers should be staying in contact with their clients. Organizations should provide tools to their sales force for discussing COVID-19, such as a COVID-19 Quick Reference Guide. Resources like this help to position the agent/broker, and ultimately your organization, as their trusted resource and support system in not only navigating Medicare but also the pandemic as well.
What This Means for Health Plans
The commissions may be higher this year, but the work is anything but “business as usual.” Both organizations and agents/brokers alike need to adjust their strategies to ensure an effective and safe AEP season. If you don’t have a game plan for adjusting to the new normal this AEP, now is the time to develop your Plan A, B, and C.