Medigap sellers drink other sectors’ buzz

Marketers can profit from open-enrollment-period campaigns for other products

Medicare Advantage has an open enrollment period every year. The Medigap open enrollment period occurs once per lifetime. (Image: CMS) Medicare Advantage has an open enrollment period every year. The Medigap open enrollment period occurs once per lifetime. (Image: CMS)

Sellers of Medicare supplement insurance plans, or Medigap plans, are preparing to pick up business from consumers passing by thanks to other sectors' open enrollment period marketing campaigns.

The 2017 open enrollment period for Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans runs from Sat., Oct. 15 through Wed., Dec. 7.

The Affordable Care Act open enrollment period for ordinary individual major medical plans runs from Nov. 1 through Jan. 31.

The open enrollment period for Medigap plans occurs just once in a lifetime.

A Medigap plan is an insurance policy designed to fill in the many huge gaps in traditional Medicare Part A hospitalization coverage and Medicare Part B outpatient and physician services coverage.

Related: Independent agents increase share of Medigap revenue

Policymakers designed the current version of the Medigap market in 1990, and they came up with a strict approach to prompting Medicare enrollees to pay for coverage even when they feel healthy, rather than paying for coverage only when they feel like they will have high medical bills.

All consumers can buy Medigap policies on a guaranteed-issue basis, even if they have serious health problems, during a six-month open enrollment period that starts on the first day of the month on which an individual is both 65 or older and is enrolled in Medicare Part B.

Consumers who fail to buy Medigap coverage during that six-month window may have to go through a medical underwriting process. They may not qualify to buy Medigap coverage at all.  

But the Medicare Advantage market open enrollment period system creates some extra sales opportunities for Medigap agents.

Medicare Advantage plan enrollees qualify to buy Medigap coverage on a guaranteed-issue basis whenever a Medicare Advantage plan leaves the Medicare program.

Medicare Advantage plan enrollees can also buy Medigap coverage on a guaranteed-issue basis if they enrolled in Medicare Advantage when they turned 65 but then decide to return to traditional Medicare coverage.

A web broker, Mountain View, California-based eHealth, is an example of a Medigap issuer that's timing a Medigap marketing effort to benefit from Medicare Advantage open enrollment advertising and media coverage.

This week, eHealth is promoting an analysis that shows that a 65-year-old who comparison shops for Medigap coverage on the web may be able to cut Medigap premiums by an average of 20 percent per month.

The three web-based Medigap marketers with ads that showed up today at the top of an "incognito mode" Google search were eHealth's Medicare.com site; the MedigapQuote.org site, which is managed by Hollywood, Florida-based MediGapQuote; and Medigap.com, which is managed by Medina, Ohio-based Medigap.com.

Minnetonka, Minnesota-based UnitedHealth, the company that writes AARP's Medigap coverage, is supporting interest in the Medigap market by running commercials on TV channels such as CBS and CNN. UnitedHealth ran at least two different Medigap TV ads today, according to Bellevue, Washington-based iSpot.tv.

Related:

CMS posts new Medicare agent sample test

11 Medicare mistakes to avoid

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