By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
Medicare influences most of the healthcare decisions of patients 65 and up. Unfortunately, original Medicare can have gaps in coverage that steer people away from making the right decisions for their health.
That’s why millions of people choose a private Medicare Advantage plan as their 65th birthday approaches or during the Annual Election Period (also known as AEP or open enrollment)—to fill in those gaps and prevent a major procedure from leading to bankruptcy.
A Medicare Advantage marketing plan allows you to reach patients at all stages of the process, but it can be tricky to do effectively and ethically.
Why you want more Medicare Advantage patients
When patients turn 65, they have a 7-month period—three months before, during and after their birth month—to select a Medicare plan. Typically, patients consider a private Medicare Advantage plan after realizing the out-of-pocket expense involved with original Medicare, which can leave patients responsible for 20% of the cost of some services with no limit on out-of-pocket expenses.
So why would hospitals, medical groups, IPAs, and practices need a Medicare Advantage marketing plan?
- Attract more seniors who need primary care or specialty care. Advantage HMO plans control large numbers of seniors in your area. Primary care practitioners receive predictable capitated payments for large numbers of patients, while specialists can gain new access to thousands of potential patients.
- Retain patients. You can avoid losing your patients when they turn 65 by participating in the best Medicare Advantage plans, and making sure that your patients are aware they have options.
- Point patients to better plans. On the wrong plan, patients may end up refusing treatment or seeking alternative treatments to avoid paying tens of thousands of dollars, but Medicare Advantage (also known as Part C coverage) helps them avoid this. Patients are still covered by Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance), but with additional benefits original Medicare won’t cover. Out-of-pocket fees are limited annually as well.
- Give patients who ask about Medicare a safe place to go. During open enrollment and leading up to a 65th birthday, people are bombarded with offers from competing plans and providers. Help give them the information they need to make an informed decision.
Medicare Advantage Marketing to current patients
Providers do need to remain neutral about most aspects of choosing a Medicare plan. Still, you can and should keep patients informed of all their options and ensure they are able to make the right decisions for their health. There are plenty of ways to reach out to patients who may be considering a Medicare Advantage plan:
- Targeted mail and emails for patients 65+
- Reminders for current patients during open enrollment
- Informational blogs and social media posts
- Posters in your office
- Referring patients to an informational page on your website with a lead capture
- Partnering with a plan sponsor to hold events outside of your office or in common entryways, providing educational or promotional materials
Marketing Medicare Advantage to prospective new patients as they turn 65
Reaching out to prospective patients can be a little tricky, as they receive so many informational brochures, mailers, and emails during open enrollment and when they turn 65. However, with the right plan in place, you can reach future patients through…
- Mailers to people turning 65
- Hospital newsletters
- Community events
- Retargeting and pay-per-click ads
- Facebook and other social media ads
Remember, many seniors have family members making their healthcare decisions, so don’t rule out digital and social media advertising as a way to reach those decision-makers.
Marketing to new patients during the Annual Election Period (AEP)
Patients have the option to switch their plans during the Annual Election Period every year. That’s when you can reach out to all seniors in your area who may be reconsidering their Medicare plans via…
- Broadcast TV and radio
- Print advertisements
- Pay-per-click and display ads online
- Targeted mail
It’s certainly useful to have information available on your website or on-site to help patients make the right decision and to bring more Medicare Advantage Plan patients to your door. But how can you make sure you’re doing this both ethically and effectively?
Follow the Medicare Marketing Guidelines
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services provide strict Medicare marketing guidelines for plan sponsors and providers. For example:
- Events promoting a particular plan must be properly labeled as sales/marketing events rather than educational events.
- Sponsors cannot promote plans in healthcare settings unless it’s a shared space (like an entryway or conference room).
- Providers themselves must remain neutral when discussing plan options with patients.
These may seem limiting, but there are still plenty of ways to reach patients with properly planned events, seminars, mailers, and online content—IF you follow compliance guidelines.
Working with Medicare Advantage plan marketing experts
We strongly recommend you work with experts who understand Medicare Advantage plan marketing. Failure to do so can lead to a disaster.
Last year, the Marketing Director of a large hospital told us a horror story about how her marketing company failed to comply with the Medicare regulations. As a result, Medicare fined her hospital and prohibited it from participating in the entire open enrollment period.
Most hospitals and practices do not have employees on staff who are both qualified and have the time to answer detailed patient questions about Medicare Advantage plans. So, you will also need a reputable partner to refer your patients to for more detailed information.
For our part, Healthcare Success has partnered with My Senior Health Plan to help hospitals and practices see more patients through Medicare Advantage. It’s part of our complete marketing management and one of the many ways we help you reach the right patients at the right time. Call 800-656-0907 to learn more!