Wednesday, September 7, 2022

3 Content Strategies That Will Ignite Your AEP Results

Value, trust, and member satisfaction take center stage.

There’s plenty we know about Medicare plan retention rates and the factors that drive people to stay or switch. (Though if you need a refresher on those drivers, we got you.)

We know, thanks to research from GHG Advisors, that plans with higher star ratings see far fewer departures. We know, according to McKinsey, that moving from a 3.5- to a 4.5-star rating wins an additional $40-per-member-per-month rebate from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). We know that doing so allows year-round beneficiary enrollment, a potential boon for those accustomed to once-a-year revenue bumps.

What’s more, we know that the percentage of star ratings determined by the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) survey is growing; according to McKinsey, these customer approval surveys are projected to make up 57% of the rating by 2023. And we know that the first year of membership is clutch for seeding member retention and thus inspiring high star ratings.

Finally, we know from the findings of Deft Research that Medicare Advantage is becoming an increasingly attractive prospect for potential members — it’s expected to account for 50% of all Medicare enrollments by 2025, according to The Chartis Group. And even as Medicare Advantage (MA) switches decrease, switches away from Medicare Supplement and Original Medicare are on the rise.

But knowing the facts isn’t enough. Healthcare marketers looking to go for broke during MA’s open enrollment period must synthesize those data points into actionable insights they can use right now. Here goes: Steadfastly court member satisfaction — and move swiftly when doing so, cementing your value in members’ minds in those crucial 12 months after enrollment. Once you have that satisfaction locked down, keep it high. Get smarter about star ratings and learn the tools that can drive them up. And embrace the growing ubiquity of MA, trimming your switch rate in the process.

How do you bring these goals to the fore in the runup to AEP, the moment at which everything — all those months of messaging, a full year’s worth of strategy — truly comes together? Like we said: We got you. Here’s your game plan.

Step 1: Be worth sticking with

Value is the most important driver of satisfaction for most U.S. health insurers, according to a Verint survey. And satisfied members are more likely to trust their health insurer and renew their policies.

Content is the glue that holds value, satisfaction, and trust together. Fresh, authoritative, and engaging content that empowers people, even as it educates and (dare we say) entertains them, needs to be among your highest priorities. Yes, because it’s a savvy strategy that can set you apart from the competition. But content that invigorates and informs and inspires also drives engagement — and you can’t get people to stick with a brand they’re not engaged with. Period.

Before you go waving a giant “step right up!” sign at potential new members, make sure your editorial calendar is working hard to engage the members you’ve got. This isn’t a more-is-more directive (though, trust us, you do need a lot of content). This is about breaking down every access barrier imaginable so that current members have the easiest time possible engaging with your brand.

Are your health and wellness portals easy to navigate across languages, digital prowess, and vision abilities? Can members find the info they seek with minimal effort? Great, but is your site and app also set up for exploration if a member doesn’t know exactly what they need (yet)? And how does that stickiness extend beyond the digital screen to your brand’s call centers, printed materials, and in-person events?

It’s one thing to write snappy content, but it’s quite another to craft content that can rouse someone to take action and return, again and again. But that’s what we’re after — and that’s what you want to highlight to existing members as you encourage them to stick around.

Step 2: Be shrewd in the way you generate and organize your content

Your editorial calendar needs to doggedly focus on serving the member, but it needs to serve your brand with equal zeal. Engagement alone isn’t enough. Your marketing efforts should galvanize members to take charge of their health, even as it builds and strengthens trust between members and your brand.

If your content gets read, high five. But don’t waste too much time celebrating: To come out of open enrollment victorious, getting read ain’t enough. Your content programs need to nudge members to take concrete actions that will drive up your quality metrics. And they need to be peppered with strategic CTAs that help them take recommended steps to improve their health — which also happens to nudge your star ratings skyward. In other words, your goal here is to help them in a way that also helps you.

On a practical level, that means adopting a three-pronged approach. First, you hit them with brand-new information, a post or newsletter that gives members the lay of the land on a health subject and, ideally, causes them to raise an eyebrow or two. You want to offer new insights, an updated point of view — something fresh and surprising enough to inspire members to share this information with friends, leave a comment, or like the post. (We’ll give you a hint: That means crafting something more urgent than the tired advice your members have heard a thousand times before.)

Next, deploy more targeted information, drilling down a level to make clear what your members’ next steps should be. This is where you get into the nitty-gritty, lighting the spark that will ultimately push members to take action. Finally, you help them make good on that action, giving them simple, straightforward ways to improve their health. Here’s a download with handy information. Here’s an easy way to follow through on scheduling an appointment. Here’s something you can try right this moment. The simpler you make that first step, the more likely they are to take it.

Step 3: Know your audience — and go find them

It’s among the most fundamental aspects of marketing: knowing who you’re talking to and what they want to hear. But even if you have the most on-target message on the planet, it doesn’t mean much if you can’t reach your intended audience.

That’s why it’s crucial that healthcare marketers think just as much about the where as the what. And where do older adults tend to congregate? Data, not dated assumptions, is your friend here. Eighty-five percent of Medicare and Tricare beneficiaries are confirmed active social media users, according to a large InComm Payments survey. A similar survey, by, found that more than half (52%) of seniors over 65 use Facebook every day.

To reach your current and potential members most effectively, you need a partner that can locate them in the wilds of social media and deliver your message in a way that breaks through the tsunami of competing content. You also need to lure them away from their newsfeed and back to your site. All of the above is Linkwell Health’s bread and butter.

And once you do have their eyes and ears, it’s time to deliver. As discussed, the first year is the most important window in which to persuade members to stay put. That means showing them right away what they’re getting for their money. The best time to do this is during the January 1 to March 31 Open Enrollment Period (OEP), when members can opt out of their chosen plan without consequence.

Remind them what they’re getting. Help them decipher their benefits and how to use them, and what to do if they hit any snags. Seed engagement right out of the gate, say, with a new-year program that requires daily check-ins or delivers daily (delightful!) content touchpoints. That high touch early on takes effort, but it’s a surefire way to help a member feel connected to, and appreciative of, your brand. And that can reap big benefits down the line.

Want to refine your strategy even further?
Learn more about the Medicare Engagement Tool Kit here.