Senior Market Sales (SMS) Recaps the 2020 Annual Election Period (AEP)

  • Originally published December 26, 2019 , last updated January 16, 2020

Vice President of Medicare Solutions at SMS Dwane McFerrin, CLU®, CFP®, RHU®, CLTC, LLIF reflects on the 2020 AEP. He summarizes the recently completed AEP season in terms of trends, successes and challenges. He discusses how SMS helped agents write more AEP business. He provides input regarding his future outlook as well as upcoming resources and opportunities that SMS is planning for agents.

This Blog Covers:

  • Changes and disruptions that occurred during the 2020 AEP
  • Solutions offered by SMS to combat these changes and disruptions
  • What SMS has planned for the future to remain competitive in an ever-changing AEP environment



By now you are probably taking a big deep breath and hopefully getting some rest from a very hectic AEP. My name is Duane McFerrin, vice president of Medicare Solutions here at Senior Market Sales (SMS). I hope that you had a successful year. We certainly did here at SMS. If you're working with your favorite marketer, hopefully they gave you good advice because there has been a lot of changes this year and we went through many methods to make sure that we are properly prepared and gave you the material. And you know, if you're a great leader, you're anticipating change and then you're implementing change and adapting to change. And we feel like that's happened this year. But let's go through a look back, if you will, to what happened in this last AEP and how it portends for next year and how even if you haven't taken advantage of some of the tools that SMS has implemented, you may find it still appropriate for your business today. So let's take a look.

As you look at the AEP, we saw that there were some major changes this year, especially on Part D. All told, consumers were out looking around for a new standalone Part D plan. It’s as busy of a period as we've had and for you as an agent, perhaps rewriting and retaining clients, which took up a lot of your time, especially perhaps in the first half of the annual election period. Along with that we had multiple Medicare Advantage carriers that were actively promoting to PDP customers to switch to an MAPD. Of course, the customer bought the PDP for a reason and you are forced to help remind the client why they had a Medicare Supplement and the value of their standalone PDP.

In addition to part D, MACRA changes were hitting, so plan F now becomes a product where underwritten business will follow and carriers are already spread. Getting to see a lot of underwritten business coming through with plan F, which has a positive impact on rates. With that, many carriers are refiling their rates, rolling out new rates. And with that comes change plan N. We expect to see more consumers choose plan N than ever before. And you can look to 2020 where Senior Market Sales will introduce two proprietary Medicare Supplement plans. Look for that around mid-year 2020.

On the Medicare Advantage side. Sales were very brisk and there are more opportunities for dual snips or Dual Special Needs Plans than ever before. Most carriers added substantially the number of counties that they serving and the extra benefits have become very meaningful beyond your traditional max out of pocket premium doctor in the network. Those types of coverages now have been supplemented with extra benefits which are far richer than they ever used to be. Senior Market Sales has been a leader in dental sales and this shows you the curve of course in the AEP is always stronger, but look at one AEP over the other or any particular quarter over another. You can see our sales have grown strong. We use dental to open the door, not just as a cross sale.

The solid line on this chart shows you the growth of Medicare Advantage and Medicare Advantage annual projection that I have here for fourth quarter. It's actually higher than ever before and we look at the growth year over year. Quarter over quarter is continuing to grow. Medicare Supplement on the other hand is a little more stable. It's not necessarily growing, but it's also not declining. Medicare Supplement continues to be a changing market with MACRA, in particular, being the new challenge for 2020. So what changes did Senior Market Sales implement to help agents for 2019 and into 2020? First of all, we introduced Lead Advantage Pro, which is a CRM system, but the key and the magic is in quoting and enrollment, more tools, more ability than ever before. In particular, the ability to look up a provider on the system and that provider ID carrying over into the application and the single sign on into multiple carriers. This platform allows an agent to represent multiple carriers but quote from a single system for both Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement, Part D, dental, final expense and other products. We introduced Medicare Insurance Direct with the convenience of self-enrollment and what was interesting is one out of four enrollments of agents that work with senior market sales this year, the consumer in one way or another enrolled themselves directly. We're seeing the consumer's willingness to purchase online and we've anticipated that and we have the tools to allow you to take advantage of the new purchasing power, whether the consumer is used to buying through Facebook Marketplace or Amazon. We’re finding that there is a willingness to enroll in insurance products as well online.

With the Medicare Blue Button, you can access to the consumers drug history with their consent electronically instead of asking for the client to go retrieve the drugs, whether it's the medicine cabinet, a pharmacy, or just a call back. We've eliminated that step. We also began quoting all Part D plans. Seeing a void in the market with the changes are in the challenges, if you will, of CMS plan finder. We began quoting all Part D plans and we were certainly rewarded. We saw a threefold increase in adoption of SMS technology and we certainly saw a number of consumers self-enrolling. So if you want to know more about the opportunities with Senior Market Sales, I'd encourage you to look at the Sales Forum that we have in Omaha, June 1st to the 4th. There's some production requirements, so it's really for producer. We'll have roughly 250 agents and probably a total of 350 attendees, but ask your favorite marketer at Senior Market Sales about the Sales Forum. You may want to attend our webinar for SMS technology. It's monthly, but I think we may even do it every two weeks or possibly even weekly due to the high demand. It's always good.

Begin a new year with looking at your portfolio and asking, “Do I have the right plans?” You should probably have three carriers per product line in the geography that you sell so that you truly can offer consumer choice and be sure to ask us about our Client Stream lead programs in particular, multiple ways that you can conduct webinars or workshops for consumers as well as other lead generation programs. You may want to set up a site for Medicare Insurance Direct, the self-enrollment site. Ask your marketer how that can be done or register for Lead Advantage Pro, our industry-leading technology allowing you to manufacture time for you, not only during the AEP but year-round. We have a number of carrier contracts, so if you don't have the right plans, ask your favorite marketer. They'll do an analysis and get you a contract.

Be looking for those proprietary products. I mentioned two Medicare Supplement plans. We will be introducing a proprietary dental plan just for seniors later this year as well. Ask us about the President's Club. We have an incentive trip for qualifying agents, 18 month qualification period, if you will, and we've been to some very great destinations including Banff, Montreal, and Puerto Rico. Ask us about our President's Club. And then SMS 360 is a business planning process that we use to help you increase your productivity. In the end, we want to help you save time, make more money, and put your business in a position of distinction. So that's it. 2019 is behind us. There's a lot to be thankful for and we appreciate your business and would like to thank you if you are doing business with Senior market Sales, and if you're not, hopefully I gave you some reasons why you'd want to consider. Change is in the air. And if it's not the carriers, if it's not the regulators, it's likely the consumer. So we're anticipating change, we're adapting, getting to change mostly through technology and proprietary products. We hope that you join the journey with us and you choose to do your business with Senior Market Sales.