A comparison line chart showing that interest in Medicare Advantage plans moved about in sync with interest in Medicare supplement insurance policies for the past 5 years, but that Medicare Advantage searches had noticeably more heat during the annual election period for 2020, and that the search activity gap seems to be wider this year. (Credit: Google Trends)

Google says the Medicare plan sales season that starts today could be pretty good.

Medicare Advantage plan sales could be somewhat stronger than they were last year, and all of the fuss about the Medicare plan annual election period could also pull Medicare supplement (Medigap) insurance sales out of their COVID-19 pandemic funk.

We used Google’s Google Trend tool to compare search activity for the terms “Medicare Advantage” and “Medicare supplement.”

Activity level for the term “Medicare Advantage” hit 77 during the week ending Oct. 10. That’s up 2.7% from the activity level for the comparable week in 2019.

The activity level for “Medicare supplement” held steady at 36.

Resources

  • A Google Trends comparison of search activity for the terms “Medicare Advantage and “Medicare supplement” are available here.
  • An article about Walmart jumping into the Medicare plan agency business is available here.

We also looked at how those two search terms performed over the past five years.

The Medicare plan annual election period runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 every year. The annual election period rules apply only to Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans.

Medigap policies come with their own once-in-a-lifetime six-month open enrollment period.

But, over the past five years, Google search activity for “Medicare supplement” has mostly moved in sync with search activity for “Medicare Advantage.”

Here’s how the five-year comparison looks:

2015 to 2018: ”Medicare Advantage” activity was about the same as “Medicare supplement” activity most of the time, and about 30% to 50% higher during the peak weeks in each annual election period.

2019: ”Medicare Advantage” continued to move in sync with “Medicare supplement,” but the activity level was about 10 points higher for “Medicare Advantage” in the off-season, and about 40 points higher during the annual election period peek weeks.

2020: ”Medicare Advantage” activity was about 25 points higher than activity for “Medicare supplement” in January and February. Search activity for both terms plunged in March, and it increased steadily from April through mid-September. In mid-September, activity for “Medicare Advantage” began to spike.

Clues

One force increasing interest in Medicare plans could be television ads and other forms of advertising.

A television ad tracking service, iSpot.tv, shows on a promotional page that about 22 of the 24 health insurance ads it has spotted in the past day are Medicare plan ads.

The organizations running the ads include UnitedHealth Group, Centene Corp.’s Health Net and WellCare units, and a number of brokers and lead generation organizations, such as eHealth, GoHealth and Willis’s SayMedicare unit.

Google Trends provides some additional clues, by listing “related queries” that are suddenly rising in terms of popularity.

“Related queries” that include brand names and have suddenly become much more popular in the past 30 days include “UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage,” “Mutual of Omaha Medicare supplement” and “AARP Medicare supplement plan.”

The most popular related queries that include brand names are “AARP Medicare Advantage,” “AARP Medicare supplement,” “Mutual of Omaha Medicare supplement,” and “Aetna Medicare supplement.”

— Read 2020 Health Open Enrollment to Test Value of Marketing Spendingon ThinkAdvisor.

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