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Takeaways from Rise: Medicare Marketing and Sales Conference

DDG-Rise-Blog-2I am back from Rise’s 12th Annual Medicare conference, and thought I would share to my experiences with those who did not attend.

Most exciting, we had a booth in the Exhibit area.  Check out David Schneider and Mike Hail, discussing our Medicare propensity models and our new Reach machine leaning analytical platform.  These modeling tools allows us to understand your Medicare prospects on an individual level, which is necessary because of the fragmented market.

Rise Mike (2)Rise David


In my experience, Medicare is an extremely complicated subject, and no one at Rise shied from its complexities. There were so many people eager to learn, so I was in great company.

Check out these takeaways from the 2 sessions I found most enlightening:

Let start with Medicare Switchers, Deft Research’s SVP George Dippel’s presentation highlighted SIX trends in 2019 for Medicare Shoppers and Switching.

  • The national Medicare Advantage(MA) market was stable – except for four regions: Minnesota, Northern California, and Illinois and Maryland. Medicare members in these four regions were forced to switch their coverage. For more information on why Minnesota experienced the changes, it went through click here.
  • MA plans that increased premiums for 2019 saw drops in memberships. Dippel said that each 1 percent increase in a premium was associated with a 0.1 percent membership drop on average. The average premium increase for 2019 was 6 percent.
  • Roughly 10 percent of Medicare members switched plans or insurers during the 2019 AEP. Seniors spent time looking at new coverage options if their current plan had a negative change in either access or cost-sharing:
    • Seven percent of those surveyed switched insurers; three percent switched plans but kept their insurers.
    • Nearly 58 percent of all switchers moved from one MA plan to another.
    • Twenty-eight percent of all switchers moved from a Medicare Supplement(Med Supp)policy to another Medicare Supplement policy.
    • Seven percent of all switchers moved from a Medicare Supplement policy to an MA plan.
  • MA members were twice as likely to switch plans or insurers during the AEP than those with Med Supp. Dippel said that is likely because MA members face fewer barriers to switching plans (no medical underwriting, for example) and MedSupp members can change plans at any point throughout the year.
  • Half of the switchers were satisfied with their 2018 coverage but shopped around anyway and found a better 2019 option. Why did they shop around? Most said they wanted to conduct “due diligence” to make sure the coverage they had in 2018 was still the best option in 2019. This means insurers could lose members to competitors that have even more appealing coverage options. Therefore, Dippel said, plans should add or increase benefits and benefit levels next year to keep existing members and attract new ones.
  • Most popular supplemental benefits: Eyewear and over-the-counter (OTC) pharmacy allowances. Nearly half of MA members surveyed said they would be more likely to switch to a different MA plan if it offered annual eyewear coverage. Close to two-thirds of MA members also said transportation benefits would influence to some degree their likelihood to switch plans. But the most popular combination of potential supplemental benefits that would entice the largest proportion of MA seniors to switch plans is a three-benefit package that included an eyewear allowance, gym benefit, and OTC pharmacy allowance.

John Moore was The Keynote Speaker and his presentation “Jolt:  Espresso Shots of Business Wisdom” had seven key points:

  • Be influenced by the “growth paradox.” That paradox, he says, is the smaller your business, the bigger you must look. You must make meaningful connections with your clients, so they trust that you’ll be around tomorrow. But conversely, the bigger you are, the smaller you must get.  Moore explained that when a small business becomes a big business it often has put so many processes in place that it has lost its connection to people. 
  • Think about “being” strategies—not branding strategies. Build your business to create your brand, Moore says. “If you build a business that (a) makes money, (b) makes customers happy, and (c) makes employees happy... then you will create a strong brand. A great brand is a by-product of doing everything else right,” he says.
  • Obsess about customers, not competitors. Many times, he says, companies get caught up in what their competitors are doing and to counteract may work on putting products out. But when businesses treat products like commodities, they treat their customers like commodities, according to Moore. All companies face marketing problems. If they reframe those issues as “people” problems, perspectives will change for the better. For example, a company may suffer from sluggish sales growth because not enough people are buying the product. Products and programs do not grow sales, he says. Only people grow sales.
  • Customer service differs from customer experience. Moore says that he used to think the two terms were one and the same, but they are very different. Customer service starts when the customer experience falls apart, he says. Customer experience is about “designing, delivering, and delighting.” It should be a flawless path, where a customer makes a purchase and is delighted with the product. But at some point, something may go wrong in that path. That’s when customer service is called in to intervene. Customer service, he says, is about “reacting, rescuing, relaying.” So, when that mistake happens, it is what happens next and how we react that turns that customer experience into something good or bad. Competitors can replicate your products, programs, and services, Moore says. But they can’t replace your people who deliver upon the customer experience and provide customer service.
  • The employee experience also matters. Research shows that the more engaged employees are, the more financially successful a business will be, Moore says. He used the example of the business model of The Container Store. Don’t underestimate the importance of hiring passionate employees when you grow a business.
  • Rethink innovation. Redefine innovation as progress past perceived potential. Reimagine it, Moore says. An idea without action is imagination. An idea with action is innovation, he says. And innovation doesn’t always have to be an immediate game changer. Incremental innovation is perfectly fine, Moore says. He suggests a four-part process to activate innovation. First, investigate what is wanted, needed, or wished. Second, think about what can be changed or improved. Third, evaluate which ideas best address the challenge. Ask yourself, what is the risk of not doing it? Finally, consider who must be persuaded.
  • Find meaning. Moore challenged attendees to find meaning in what they do. “You work in the health care business. It’s the most personal business out there…. you help people live longer, healthier and better lives.” Purpose-driven businesses deliver higher-quality products and in many instances have more satisfied employees, according to Moore. “Before people can buy from you, they’ve got to buy into you.” Consider what makes you different from everyone else.

Now what? Well, it's back to Dallas, back to an ever-evolving passion about data, back to asking:  who are the customers, why are they the customers, and how do they spend so we can offer actionable insights to our customers.

See you all next year at Rise!


Whitney Hamilton
Whitney Hamilton
Whitney Hamilton is the Marketing Communications Manager at Data Decisions Group. Her expertise includes the mining of consumer facts and data from DecisionPoints, our national consumer data and list solution.