Independent agents helped Medicare supplement (Medigap) policy issuers generate big increases in sales and in-force revenue between 2013 and 2014.
Analysts at Gen Re, a reinsurer, have published data supporting those conclusions in a summary of the results from their latest Medicare supplement market survey.
The company found 80 insurers in the market in 2014, up from 72 in 2013. The number of insurers that participated in the survey increased to 54, from 50.
Participating issuers that are actively selling Medigap said the number of people their new policies covered increased 23 percent between 2013 and 2014. The total number of people covered by all participating issuers increased 7.3 percent.
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Gen Re analysts have not given the actual number of covered lives, but they say annualized premium revenue from new Medigap sales and active Medigap sellers increased 17 percent, to about $2 billion, while premium revenue from in-force policies increased 8.2 percent, to about $18 billion.
The percentage of issuers trying to sell Medigap coverage directly to consumers increased to 51 percent, from 41 percent in 2013, but the percentage of new sales premium coming from direct-to-consumer methods held steady at 5 percent.
The percentage of new sales premium coming from captive agents and salaried employees fell to 30 percent, from 36 percent.
Independent agents increased their share of new sales premium to 65 percent, from 59 percent.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) made major changes in the traditional commercial major medical market starting in January 2014, and some independent agents may have tried to cope with the upheaval in the traditional commercial market by selling more Medigap coverage.
Congress has tried to help Medigap buyers compare coverage on an apples-to-apples basis by requiring issuers to base products on 11 “letter plan” templates, and on additional templates available in states that have received waivers from the regular letter plan requirements.
In practice, the Gen Re analysts found that sales of Plan F products accounted for 58 percent of premiums from new 2014 sales, down just slightly from 60 percent in 2013.
Issuers also reported some Plan G and Plan N sales, and a small but growing number of waiver-state product sales.
See also: Why an LTCI agent sells Medicare plans