Understanding The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) Audience

October 15, 2020 Sarah Cavill

Shutterstock_568221058 Medicare. Medicine concept / Paper sticker with inscription, stethoscope, pen on wooden table.

On October 15, the Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) will begin, running through December 7. During AEP, Medicare beneficiaries can make changes to Medicare Advantage insurance and prescription plans or add them if they previously weren’t participating in an Advantage plan. Medicare Advantage plans are private insurance plans available to beneficiaries already enrolled in or eligible for Medicare Part A and B. Insurance shoppers will typically bundle their Medicare Advantage insurance plans with their prescription plans for lower premiums, all of which can be done during AEP.

For health insurance marketers, it is critical during AEP to reach the right consumers with the right information while breaking through the influx of advertising during insurance enrollment periods. Understanding the AEP audience can result in more effective marketing messaging and targeting.

During AEP, Medicare Beneficiaries Change And Update Plans Due To Cost And Coverage

Every September, Medicare beneficiaries receive an Annual Notice of Change (ANoC) letter informing them of any updates or adjustments to the plans they currently have. Once in hand, this letter generally serves as a guide for beneficiaries interested in making changes, either because of price, coverage or changes to prescription drug formularies. 

In order to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, the plan must serve the county where the beneficiary lives. The uptick in Medicare Advantage enrollment in recent years is attributable to the expansion of plans into more counties, in addition to the 10,000 Baby Boomers aging into Medicare everyday. For insurance marketers, cost, coverage and location are essential inclusions for all targeted messaging. 

Medicare Advantage Shoppers Want Ease Of Use And Enrollment During AEP


Recently, Walmart launched Walmart Insurance Services, which promises to streamline the Medicare enrollment process, simplifying a task perceived as fussy and difficult to navigate. Many insurance brands are offering similar promises of easy transactions and enrollment, which can mean a great deal to an audience (65 and older) for which only 25% feel “confident using electronics to go online.”

A simplified process is particularly important for Medicare enrollment, since the expansion of major insurance players like Cigna and Aetna into new Medicare Advantage markets has led to a jump of 76% in available plans since 2017. Beneficiaries are now able to choose from more than 4,800 Medicare Advantage plans this AEP, which can be overwhelming for seniors navigating their options. Differentiation between plans, which can include variables like personalization, ease of enrollment, cost, benefits and bundling options, can help brands stand out in the crowded AEP market. 

For example, Aetna emphasises the “Whole You” to differentiate from other insurance brands that may not offer comprehensive, holistic approaches. And, in their sales materials, Aetna includes active, family oriented seniors, leveraging long-form promotional videos on YouTube, to connect with their audience while presenting a welcomed optimistic outlook on life.

New-To-Medicare Consumers Are An Important Audience For Health Insurance Marketers During AEP

bright health

While many of those shopping during AEP will be in search of better plans, Baby Boomers aging into the program will be looking for Medicare Advantage plans for the first time and are an important audience niche for health insurance brands. Bright Health launched a “new-to-Medicare” campaign well ahead of the AEP time period that included direct mailers with information about Medicare enrollment, a new website, email and paid search, all of which worked to educate new-to-Medicare shoppers and encourage enrollment as AEP and open enrollment (OEP) dates drew closer. Offering consumers tip-to-tail guidance can create loyalty and brand trust and lead to enrollments.

There may be some concerns for AEP shoppers this year due to current events, like the election and COVID-19, that could impact future Medicare coverage. Insurance brands able to offer reassurances to beneficiaries shopping for Medicare Advantage during AEP and create compelling messaging that targets the needs of the 65 and older market may be more likely to drive awareness, engagement, buy-in and loyalty.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Associate Content Manager, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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