Marketing Strategies

Big changes are coming to Medicare – here’s how to prepare

Since its introduction in 1965, Medicare has consistently provided health insurance to disabled Americans and those of retirement age. An average of over 60 million people (roughly 18 to 19 percent of the American population) are enrolled in Medicare every year, with the program generating nearly 900 billion U.S. dollars in 2020 alone.

In other words: Medicare is a lifeline to many, and an integral part of the American healthcare system.

Insurers and Medicare providers should be paying attention to the news of impending changes to Medicare enrollment and coverage. Because these changes not only increase the audience you are marketing to, they also improve the selling points you’ve been touting all along.

What are the 2021 proposed changes to Medicare?

While there are often minor changes made to Medicare each year, the program has remained much the same over the last five decades. The last big change came in 2006 with the addition of the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit.

But along with a new administration, 2021 has brought with it quite a few impending and proposed Medicare changes, beyond the premium and deductible increases Medicare enrollees have come to expect every year.

Increased eligibility

One of President Biden’s campaign goals was to lower the age of Medicare eligibility from 65 to 60. And in fact, his 2022 budget request calls for just that change. If the age requirement is lowered, a whole new audience of potential Medicare enrollees will be opened up. But for the time being, the age of enrollment remains the same.

One eligibility change that has already been confirmed, however, is the opportunity for individuals with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) to join Medicare Advantage plans. This change comes specifically because of the 21st Century Cures Act.

Expanded income brackets

Beginning in 2007, income brackets were introduced to determine how much an individual or joint-filing couple should have to pay in monthly premiums for Medicare coverage. This year, the range for the lowest level bracket has increased from $85,000 for individuals and $170,000 for couples to $88,000 for individuals and $176,000 for couples.

While these changes have been made with inflation in mind, an increased lower bracket also means a larger audience now meeting eligibility requirements.

More Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs)

There are now two additional Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs) for Medicare enrollees who experience the following changes in life circumstances:

  • Moving
  • Loss of current coverage
  • Availability of new coverage options
  • Plan changes
  • Other special situations, to include eligibility for both Medicare and Medicaid and enrollment or loss of eligibility in a State Pharmaceutical Assistance Program (SPAP)

Additional coverage

While not approved yet, President Biden’s 2022 budget request calls for “improving access to dental, hearing, and vision coverage in Medicare.” Policy changes surrounding this goal have been in discussion for years, and could actually become a reality in the year to come. This may be especially beneficial, and of interest to Medicare recipients, as these benefits have been either non-existent, difficult to access, or of little help in previous years.

One additional coverage area that 2021 has already opened up is long-term care now being offered through Medicare Advantage plans.

3 ways to make your Medicare marketing more effective

With these impending and proposed changes, the year to come promises to open up an exciting new playing field for Medicare marketing. This is because each new change either increases eligibility or benefits, making for a larger and more invested audience to market to.

As companies prepare for the changes that have already been put in place, and the updates still to come, they need to keep Medicare marketing guidelines in mind. But the following steps will ensure a successful marketing strategy:

1. Learn who your new audience is

Changes to the substance of Medicare (as opposed to annual fiscal changes) almost always mean a change in who you should be marketing to. With increased eligibility segments and benefits, there are inevitably more people vying for coverage.

Now is the time for insurers to ask who this new Medicare audience they could and should be marketing to might be.

One of the best ways to identify that audience is through third-party data. Should the age requirements for Medicare eligibility reduce, for instance, millions of potential subscribers suddenly become eligible. Third-party data can help you identify and add those new prospects to your database for contacting, while also helping you model current prospects and identify others who already existed but weren’t in your database previously.

By working with a partner, such as Data Axle, to develop a marketing program strategy with the goal of expanding your database and appending your current data to understand your prospects better, your total addressable market opens up and your messaging will be more effective.

The one thing you can guarantee that market is looking for is experience. Their questions are numerous, particularly for those who have never enrolled in Medicare before. They are looking for those who can guide them—and that’s where the competition is heating up. Reaching these new prospects and establishing yourself as a leader in the space (one who can help them through these complicated processes) before your competition does is going to be a key component to your success.

2. Segment Your Target Audience

Once you’ve defined and learned about your new audience, you want to segment them into approachable and reachable groups. You can segment by market, product, personas, and propensity models and create multichannel communication strategies for each segment.

And yet again, data is the best way to help you segment your campaigns.

Starting with the total addressable market, our modeling at Data Axle kicks in to find the right markets and the right people for the right projects. We analyze the data in search of growth opportunities, identify potential segments, and then help to develop a strategic plan based on those segments.

For example, this simple step can increase clicks on email campaigns by 101 percent over non-segmented campaigns (according to a survey by Mailchimp) and significantly increase your returns on sales. One of our clients benefited from 7 times more sales and a 20 percent increase in revenue per email through segmentation alone.

When it comes to Medicare sales, potential segments might include those most in need of Medicare coverage, or those most likely to benefit from SEPs. By segmenting your audience, not only do you define them further, you’re also able to develop individualized marketing techniques tailored to each segment’s unique experiences.

3. Create an amazing customer experience and personalize your communications

As new coverage options open up (to include the potential for vision and dental), insurers must start asking themselves how they plan to find the people interested in these new and improved coverage options. And more importantly, how they can earn their business.

This is where personalized experience and creative come into play. By using your data-driven marketing, and thinking about the segmented populations you’ve identified, you can delve deeper into who each of those segments is and how and where you can best reach them. For example, reaching tech-savvy prospects requires a multichannel campaign over digital channels such as email, social, display and CTV. For prospects who prefer offline methods of communication, direct mail might be your best bet. Make sure your creative includes verbiage that speaks to the benefits marketing targets have been desperate for and commercials timed specifically for target audiences to let them know about new eligibility terms.

At Data Axle, we don’t just provide the data you’re looking for, we also help companies develop successful strategies built around that data. With one of our clients, a top 5 US health insurer, that meant helping to create geo-targeted acquisition campaigns, dynamic messaging, and display ads that resulted in a 32 percent reduction in disengaged website visitors and a 4 to 8.2 percent increase in acquisition rates among target audiences.

The results speak for themselves: combining data with a strong creative strategy increases revenue and reduces missed opportunities.

Making the data work for you

While insurers wait to learn more about potential changes to Medicare benefits and eligibility, new potential clients are waiting too. But why wait when you could be connecting now?

One thing insurers may want to consider is reaching out to that potential new audience before new changes are announced, creating a touch point and offering to answer any questions they may have about the changes that could be coming.

Even if some of these changes don’t come to fruition, the use of data-driven modeling, a unique creative strategy and savvy media planning now could help you to reach your best prospects and engage a newly expanded audience that will think of you first when their eligibility date does arrive.

By becoming a name they know and trust today, you could be establishing relationships that will prove beneficial for years down the line.

Learn more about how we help insurers engage, acquire and retain new business.

Natasia Langfelder
Content Marketing Manager

As Content Marketing Manager, Natasia is responsible for helping strategize, produce and execute Data Axle's content. With a passion for writing and an enthusiasm for data management and technology, Natasia creates content that is designed to deliver nuggets of wisdom to help brands and individuals elevate their data governance policies. A native New Yorker, when Natasia is not at work she can be found enjoying New York’s food scene, at one of NYC’s many museums, or at one of the city’s many parks with her two teacup yorkies.