New Benefits & Special Enrollment Period (SEP) During a National Emergency

Since President Trump declared COVID-19 a national emergency in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for Medicare beneficiaries is allowed. The SEP runs from March 1st to June 30th.

What is a Special Enrollment Period?

The SEP exists for Medicare beneficiaries who were unable to make an election during the Open Enrollment Period (OEP), including both enrollment and disenrollment decisions. If an enrollee did make an election decision during OEP, they are not eligible for the SEP.

SEPs present a unique opportunity for Medicare Advantage (MA) plans to capture new enrollees. However, this effort may be best left to the sales team. The number of Medicare beneficiaries taking part in this new SEP is most likely lower than the OEP, so it would be difficult to achieve a high return on any new marketing investment.

New Benefits During a National Emergency

In addition to the SEP, MA plans may offer additional benefits during a federal or public health emergency. There are a variety of benefits that can be offered, but they must be offered uniformly to all plan members. Here are a few examples:

  • Introduce an OTC benefit or increase an existing OTC benefit allowance. (Must be health related, unless part of Supplemental Benefits for Chronically Ill Enrollees [SSBCI].)
  • Waive the plan premium
  • Offer new mandatory supplemental benefits, such as meals or transportation
  • Provide a cell phone and/or tablet. (Again, this must be for health-related services only, unless part of SSBCI and there is a reasonable expectation of improving or managing the health or overall function of the chronically ill member.)
  • Decrease and/or eliminate copays/coinsurance of any benefits

What Should Medicare Advantage Plans Do?

With the current COVID-19 environment, the upcoming deadline for bid submissions, constant communications with members, and navigating the new normal for AEP, it may be difficult for MA plans to consider a change at this time. However, introducing new benefits during this unprecedented time demonstrates your plan is committed to going above and beyond for its members. Just remember—if you decide to make changes and believe they are worthwhile, advertise them! You’re in an SEP, after all.

If you need help navigating this SEP or anything related to marketing through COVID-19 and a Presidential election year, contact us to start the conversation.