Events put on to educate the public about Medicare Advantage and Part D can be a great way to establish your presence in the community. Marketing events are different than educational events because they allow you to steer members to a specific plan by providing information about plan benefits, plan cost sharing and a plan’s provider network.
But there’s more to hosting an event than selecting the venue and perfecting your presentation. Agents also have the responsibility of complying with carrier and CMS requirements. Please read below for a run-through of the basic considerations you should take into account when planning your event, as well as a few helpful resource documents to help you get started and stay compliant throughout.
Structuring the Event
There are two types of events — sales/marketing events and educational events. CMS treats each event differently, and the type of event you are having determines how you advertise the event and what you can do marketing-wise at the event.
The main difference between sales and educational events is that no sales or marketing activities can take place at an educational event. An educational event is an event designed to inform Medicare beneficiaries about Medicare Advantage, Prescription Drug or other Medicare programs and does not include marketing/selling. Conducting any type of sales activities such as distributing marketing materials or distributing/collecting applications is strictly prohibited. The agent can set up a sales/marketing appointment with a member, and pass out business cards. It is okay to complete SOA forms and collect them at an educational event.
At a sales event, marketing activities and lead generation can take place, including discussing plan-specific information and collecting applications. As a rule of thumb, any time you want to partake in marketing activities, structure your event as a sales event. “Talking points” used during the event and presentations used by agents need to be submitted to CMS prior to use. Sign in sheets, if used, must be labeled as “optional”. An agent cannot require an attendee to provide contact information as a requirement in order to attend a sales event.
Sign in sheets, if used, must be labeled as “optional”. An agent cannot require an attendee to provide contact information as a requirement in order to attend a sales event.
Advertising the Event
CMS requires that educational events be advertised explicitly as “educational” and that the advertising and invitations to both sales events and educational events include, verbatim, the following disclaimer:
When the event is marketed as educational, ensure all guidelines for educational events are followed. When conducting a sales event, adhere to the guidelines for marketing/sales events and appointments. See CMS MCMG Sections 50.1 and 50.2 for information on both types of events.
Look at this checklist for a rundown on the dos and don’ts of educational events and sales events based on CMS rules. There are similarities and differences to both.
How Do I Register My Event? Which Carrier?
All sales events must be registered with each and every carrier that you are appointed and certified with prior to the event. Not all carriers require that educational events be registered.
Please use the “Carrier Events Reporting Guide” as your reference, which includes the detailed processes for each of our carriers. It is a quick go-to guide that can answer the questions below.
How Do I Register?
The exact reporting requirements vary based on the carrier. Typically the reporting process involves filling out a spreadsheet providing event details and submitting the form to the carrier in the month prior to having the event. Before sending, verify that the event details are correct, such as formal or informal, start time, venue address, etc. Some carriers require that you go through your local market manager.
When Must I Register By?
You are responsible for the timely submission of the event request form. Each carrier has different deadlines. Become familiar them, so as not to miss a deadline and have to reschedule your event. For example, Cigna HealthSpring requires the event to be registered no later than the 15th of the month prior to the event. So a sales event scheduled for April 22 would need to be registered with Aetna-Coventry by March 15th.
Remember, that both sales and educational events will be subject to secret shoppers from CMS and/or the carrier, so it is important to stay within the parameters of the type of event that you are putting on.